Owners of marijuana-based businesses may have another reason to spark one up - this time from an unlikely source; Senate Banking Committee chair Mike Crapo (R-ID), a 68-year-old Mormon who thinks it's time to end the financial blockade on the cannabis industry, according to an exclusive interview with the Senator by Wikileaf.
Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo is no fan of marijuana – after all, he represents one of the mere three states that still don’t allow medicinal marijuana (or even CBD for that matter). Still, the Republican chair of the Senate Banking Committee tells Wikileaf for the first time that it now seems evident that Congress needs to stop its blockade and finally allow federally prohibited, though locally legal, pot businesses to use banks like every other business in the nation.
“I think so,” Crapo told Wikileaf at the Capitol when asked if legislation is needed to end the federal hurdles that have forced cannabis retailers to run as all-cash businesses. “Yeah.” -Wikileaf
Crapo raised eyebrows last week when he held a hearing into allowing marijuana-based businesses to access banks - a seeming 180 flip from his prior position on the plant.
"I think all the issues got well vetted. We now need to, I think, move forward and see if there’s some way we can draft legislation that will deal with the issue," said the Senator.
Successfully passing stand-alone legislation on the matter will undoubtedly prove to be an uphill battle, according to Crapo. As a result, he says he's planning to coordinate with the Trump administration to bypass the 'hyper-partisan and utterly gridlocked Congress altogether.'
"There are other ways it could be solved," said Crapo. "For example regulatory – they could deal with the issue at the Department of Justice, but I don’t know."
According to Colorado Senator Cory Gardner (R), Crapo's hearing last week was "a historic moment in the Senate" by itself. Gardner is one of two senators who testified before the Banking Committee prior to a panel of experts who were overwhelmingly supportive of revamping banking rules in favor of the marijuana industry.
"It shows that this isn’t just a regional issue, but a national issue that needs to be addressed," said Gardner.
While some national media outlets made a fuss that Crapo was the only Republican on the Banking Committee to bother to attend the hearing, Gardner says those outlets missed the bigger picture: the conservative media machine and many GOP senators – professional rhetorical bomb-throwers – surrendered at the feet of marijuana.
“There was some criticism that the Republican attendance wasn’t there, but if they wanted to blow it up they would’ve been there,” Gardner said. “So I look at that as sort of an acknowledgment that this is now just a status quo issue and not something that they’re going to try and interfere with.” -Wikileaf
Democrats, meanwhile, have also heralded Crapo's action as positive progress.
"I would like to see it as a positive step forward," said former Nevada Attorney General Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) in a statement to Wikileaf. "I support doing something in this country for these states that have legitimised marijuana businesses, we’ve got to give them an opportunity to have a financial system for them and…not an all-cash system for them."
"I have always been concerned about potential money laundering or crimes that are sort of around these all-cash businesses," she added. "By having a financial system, it helps."
One remaining question may determine whether this issue has legs; will Mitch McConnell abide?