Congressional Committee Rejects Marijuana Banking Measure

A congressional committee voted against protections for financial institutions that work with the marijuana industry on Wednesday. The proposal would block federal financial regulators from punishing banks that open accounts for state-licensed marijuana businesses.

The lawmakers supporting the bill immediately drafted a more limited version of the measure that would provide protections only for medical marijuana businesses. The second version did not come up for a vote.

The measure prompted a lengthy and impassioned debate. Around 20 members of Congress aired their opinions on the proposal before it was defeated by voice vote in the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. David Joyce, the chief sponsor of both the first and second versions of the banking amendment, emphasized that the measure has nothing to do with whether or not Congress approves marijuana. He said the bill is about “public safety and financial transparency.”

Supporters of the amendment were confident it would pass ahead of Wednesday's vote, saying they had secured enough votes to pass. However, several Republican Congress members who voiced support for the measure were absent during Wednesday's debate.

Ahead of the vote, the Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter to House leaders urging them to reject banking protections for the marijuana industry. Joyce attempted to call a vote on his revised version of the measure twice, but Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen asked him three times to withdraw.

The banking protections still have a chance of passing this year. A similar version of the measure is scheduled for a panel discussion in the Senate Treasury Department next week.

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