There's little doubt in Senator Cory Gardner's mind that a marijuana banking bill would be approved if it were taken to a full vote of the U.S. Senate, but getting that measure in front of his colleagues has been a slog.
"There is tremendous support in the Senate, and if we had a vote on it — or could get a vote on it — it would pass with more than 60 percent of support," Gardner said during a June 3 webinar on marijuana policy. "We've got billions of dollars on the outside of the economy looking in, when we need them on the inside of the economy looking out."
So where's the roadblock? Before the SAFE Banking Act — a bill sponsored by Representative Ed Perlmutter that would create federal protection for financial institutions serving state-legal marijuana businesses, which made it out of the U.S. House — reaches the Senate floor, it has to get through the Senate Banking Committee, and Chair Mike Crapo has a load of issues with legal marijuana. The Idaho Republican has voiced concerns over everything from the potency of legal pot to the industry's marketing tactics.
Crapo has said that he'd like to see further studies focusing on marijuana's effects on children, as well as a potency limit of 2 percent THC on legal marijuana products, which would essentially wipe out the inventory of every dispensary in Colorado.
Gardner, who's also a Republican, recognizes that Crapo's recommended potency limit is a non-starter with the pot industry, but doesn't view the banking committee as fertile ground for negotiation.
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"That is not a helpful committee. We have some of the staunchest opponents to cannabis reform in the Senate on that committee," he said, adding that any anti-marijuana sentiment "sounds like something my granddad said in the 1950s, and apparently they're all in the Senate Banking Committee right now."