There were some major victories last week for those fighting for the reform of cannabis laws — possible changes to our national banking laws were introduced and Colorado took steps to protect cannabis employees from the federal government. Find out about that more in our weekly marijuana legislative roundup.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced legislation on Thursday that would permit banks to provide marijuana businesses with financial services without fear of federal penalties. Because cannabis remains illegal under federal law, banks have mostly refused to serve such businesses, which have been forced to deal primarily in cash.
The Treasury Department in 2014 released a set of guidelines for banks to serve marijuana businesses, but both the banking and cannabis industries complained that the guidelines were too vague and did not offer sufficient assurances. The SAFE Banking Act would prohibit federal law enforcement agencies from penalizing or threatening banking institutions for providing services to state-legal marijuana businesses, among other similar protections in the law. Similar legislation was introduced in 2013 and 2015, but never made it to the floor for a vote.
The Colorado House of Representatives voted 56-7 to approve legislation designed to prevent state and local employees from cooperating with federal law enforcement in cracking down on legal marijuana businesses. To avoid potential conflict with federal law, the measure does not explicitly mention cannabis, but instead bars public employees from aiding federal law enforcement in “arresting a Colorado citizen for committing an act that is a Colorado constitutional right.” The California Assembly is considering similar legislation.
On Friday, the House Human Services Committee voted 5-4 to advance a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow several plants at home. Unlike the legalization laws passed by a number of other states, the legislation would not establish mechanisms for the regulation and taxation of marijuana sales. The Vermont Senate passed a more comprehensive legalization measure the prior week. The bill is set to receive a vote before the full House before the legislative session ends on May 6th.