Rep. Heck’s Pro Marijuana Banking Amendment Passes House

“With marijuana retail shops now in operation in Washington State, financial security for these businesses is urgent and immediately necessary to protect them from the harms of operating as a cash-only entity.”
— Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10)

On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives supported the banking of legal marijuana businesses with votes on two important amendments.

The so-call “Heck amendment” – H.R. 5016, was sponsored by Rep. Denny Heck (D-WA-10). It prevents the government from spending funds to penalize credit unions and other financial institutions that provide financial services to legal pot businesses.

During the debate, Heck said without banking services, the pot industry would become a dangerous, “all-cash sector of the economy.”

“If you want to keep cash out of the hands of gangs and cartels, you will support this amendment,” he said. 

His colleagues did, by a vote of 231-192.

Heck Issues Statement to Anthem

The Congressman issued a statement to the Northwest Credit Union Association’s Anthem newsletter Thursday morning, thanking his colleagues for their support.

“With marijuana retail shops now in operation in Washington State, financial security for these businesses is urgent and immediately necessary to protect them from the harms of operating as a cash-only entity,” Heck noted. “We can’t just expect these businesses to hide their cash under a mattress and think that this won’t place a huge burden on law enforcement. I’m thankful that 230 of my colleagues, from both sides of the aisle and from all over the country, recognize the need to protect public safety and deter crime. I am encouraged by this momentum and look forward to implementing common-sense guidelines for banks and marijuana businesses to develop a legitimate, reliable financial management system.”

In separate action, the House nixed an amendment offered by Louisiana Republican John Fleming. The “Fleming amendment” sought to overturn the FinCEN guidance issued February 14, allowing financial institutions to bank marijuana businesses if they accept considerable additional regulatory burdens. While the guidance has been criticized for putting too many restrictions on financial institutions, supporters of Fleming’s proposal felt the government was effectively facilitating the sale of marijuana and, in Fleming’s words, giving “tacit approval for money laundering.”

House members voted 186-236 to defeat the Fleming proposal.

It was a busy day on the hill as far as financial news was concerned.

One other amendment of interest to financial institutions passed Wednesday. It  would give Congress oversight over funding for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Currently the CFPB is funded by transfers from the Federal Reserve.

The House of Representatives passed the Financial Services Approriations Act (HR 5016) as amended by a vote of 228-195. President Obama has threatened to veto the legislation for a number of reasons, including proposed cuts to the tax collectors’ enforcement budget which could hamper the ability of the IRS to collect revenue.

Questions about this story? Contact Lynn Heider: 503.350.2225, lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Federal.