Ed Perlmutter Wants You To Know That His Marijuana Banking Bill Is Still Alive And Making Its Way Through The Senate

Jae C. Hong/AP
The proprietor of a medical marijuana dispensary prepares his monthly tax payment, over $40,000 in cash, at his Los Angeles store, June 27, 2017.

Democratic Rep. Ed Perlmutter wants to keep the ball moving on his SAFE Banking Act, even as Sen. Mike Crapo, chair of the Senate’s banking committee, has pumped the legislative brakes. 

The bill aims to make it easier for banks and financial institutions to work with legal cannabis companies, even as the drug remains illegal under federal law. Perlmutter and his house co-sponsors recently sent a letter to Crapo stressing the things they agree on and outlining potential next steps. 

“Finding the places where there's agreement, working out places where there is disagreement, is how you do legislation,” Perlmutter said. “So this is moving slowly, but it's moving.”

Perlmutter has been introducing this bill for years, which finally passed out of the House with strong bipartisan support last year. But Perlmutter understands it's a new subject for the Senate. That chamber held a hearing on cannabis banking for the first time last July.

A number of marijuana industry groups are pressing Crapo, who is against marijuana legalization, to advance the SAFE Banking Act. 

Crapo does believe legitimate issues have been raised when it comes to public safety and for the need for Congress to address this issue “in terms of the need to stop the money laundering and the cash economy that is causing so much damage to people not even related to the cannabis industry.” 

And the banking committee chair said he does want to address these issues — just not necessarily through the SAFE Banking Act as currently envisioned. Crapo has asked for public feedback on specific issues from public health concerns — such as addressing high-level potency or marketing to children — to preventing criminal organizations from using the system in order to disguise “ill-gotten gains.”  

In essence, he’s going back to the legislative drawing board.

“Now some people have said no just go back and do the original bill. The original bill cannot build the bipartisan approach that cannot in this congress to make it all the way to law,” Crapo said. “I think what I put out is a roadmap, not a roadblock.”

Perlmutter agrees there are some areas where conversations are needed. But he's leaving that up to his Republican co-sponsor in the House, as well as Senate partners — one of whom is Republican Sen. Cory Gardner — to make those arguments to Crapo in person.

Gardner said he had a very good conversation with Crapo about the bill, and that it will get done. But Crapo gave no hints to when exactly that might be.