Colorado governor says Congress should tackle marijuana banking before legalization

Colorado governor says Congress should tackle marijuana banking before legalization

Governor Jared Polis (D-CO) sent a letter to the sponsors of a cannabis legalization bill, asking them to consider passing marijuana banking and tax reform first.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Senator John Wyden (D-OR) are co-sponsors of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA). The bill aims to deschedule marijuana and promote social equity.

In his letter, Polis urged the senators to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act before the CAOA.

“I am thrilled that you are bringing forward a long-term, comprehensive solution that deschedules cannabis while enhancing social equity pathways. I hope that you will first focus your efforts on the two biggest barriers to the success of the cannabis industry: banking and IRS Code Section 280E (280E). Legislation to address these issues has more bipartisan support than ever before and can be passed in the short-term as you continue to work on the details of the CAOA.”

Access to banking has been a challenge for the cannabis industry from the beginning. The SAFE Banking Act would protect banks working with the cannabis industry from being penalized or violating federal anti-money laundering and illicit finance laws.

“The cannabis industry is simply too large to be prohibited from banking opportunities, and the Senate must remedy this harm by bringing this measure up for a vote in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs immediately.”

“Congress has the power and traction to address these inequities in the near-term while continuing to refine the CAOA, and I encourage you to efficiently take any opportunity to pass legislation concerning banking or 280E,” the governor wrote.

Polis cautioned the lawmakers against too high of a tax rate in the CAOA.

“It is critical that the tax level is not so cost prohibitive that it undermines the federal legal cannabis systems both already in place and being developed in emerging regulated cannabis states,” he wrote.

“I encourage the bill sponsors to carefully consider the federal excise tax rate so as not to set it so high that it would supplant much needed and relied upon state and local taxes. We should regulate cannabis similarly to alcohol; so it is appropriate for the bill sponsors to continue to look to the alcohol taxation framework for guidance on setting the appropriate tax rate for cannabis.”

The letter was sent in response to a public comment request from the senators who drafted the CAOA.

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