Trump Would Sign Bill Opening Banks to Cannabis Cash, Colorado Senator Says

December 18, 2018

By Justin Chermol

President Trump is prepared to sign legislation in Congress that would address one of the biggest conflicts over the legalization of marijuana in the U.S., Sen. Cory Gardner, a Colorado Republican, told Cheddar’s J.D. Durkin.

Gardner has introduced an amendment to criminal justice reform legislation that aims to protect individuals from federal prosecution for cultivating, selling, and buying marijuana in the growing number of states where the drug is legal.

"Being a states' rights approach has gained a lot of support for it," Gardner said.

The problem Gardner is trying to address is the conflict between Federal drug laws, which criminalize marijuana, and state like Colorado, which have legalized it. In those states, growers and stores are essentially barred from using the federal banking system to deposit money, write checks or use credit cards.

Gardner's amendment would change that, allowing federally insured banks to accept and exchange funds with the cannabis industry in states where it's legal.

"You have billions of dollars in cash floating around the country, can't go in banks because banks won't take it. It's considered money laundering even though its legal,"Gardner said of states that have legalized cannabis. If individuals work at a marijuana dispensary, Gardner added, they can't take out home loans.

According to Gardner, President Trump is amenable to the plan. "[Trump] would sign this bill if it were to come before his desk," he said.

His amendment, Strengthening the Tenth Amendment Through Entrusting States (or STATES Act), was originally a bipartisan and bicameral bill co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma) in June of 2018. At this juncture, Gardner describes it as "essentially... a criminal sentencing reform effort," he said.

The bill's stated goal is to ensure "that each state has the right to determine for itself the best approach to marijuana within its borders".

Whether the STATES Act amendment passes in the 115th Congress or not, 2019 could usher in a new era for marijuana legalization. A recent Gallup poll suggested that 66 percent of Americans are in support of legalization and the number of Republicans in favor is growing.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Sen. Cory Gardner: I don't think you have a shutdown.

Sen. Cory Gardner: In fact, over the last, ah, couple of

Sen. Cory Gardner: minutes there's been various news reports that there

Sen. Cory Gardner: may be some kind of a deal in the works and

Sen. Cory Gardner: perhaps this fight will continue,

Sen. Cory Gardner: but not resulting in a shutdown.

Sen. Cory Gardner: We funded about 75 percent of the government.

Sen. Cory Gardner: There's no need to have a shutdown now.

Sen. Cory Gardner: We can work this out in a bipartisan fashion.

J.D. Durkin: So, what are your particular viewpoint on the president

J.D. Durkin: saying up until may-

J.D. Durkin: we will have some movement on this today,

J.D. Durkin: but saying hey five billion dollars not really willing to

J.D. Durkin: budge on that specifically

J.D. Durkin: for the construction of a border wall.

J.D. Durkin: He said, hey he would embrace

J.D. Durkin: and be willing to take responsibility for a shutdown.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Well, you know I think- I think

Sen. Cory Gardner: shutting the government down is

Sen. Cory Gardner: the wrong approach I think.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Let's- let's get together, ah,

Sen. Cory Gardner: just a couple of months ago Republicans and Democrats had

Sen. Cory Gardner: agreed to $25 billion

Sen. Cory Gardner: in funding for border security.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Ah, let's- let's find a way to get back to

Sen. Cory Gardner: that bipartisan compromise and not result.

Sen. Cory Gardner: ah, In a government shutdown.

J.D. Durkin: Of course. Now let's talk about the States Act.

J.D. Durkin: This is specifically something that has been a bill,

J.D. Durkin: but now you want to say, "Hey, let's make an amendment."

J.D. Durkin: We want to ease the regulations specifically for

J.D. Durkin: legal marijuana businesses in states where it is legal,

J.D. Durkin: to allow this to kind of open dialogue and

J.D. Durkin: communication with financial institution.

J.D. Durkin: So, why is attach it to

J.D. Durkin: the Criminal Justice Bill the best way to move forward?

Sen. Cory Gardner: Well, really, ah, at its essence this is

Sen. Cory Gardner: a criminal sentencing reform effort.

Sen. Cory Gardner: If you look at Colorado right now,

Sen. Cory Gardner: you can follow the Colorado Constitution,

Sen. Cory Gardner: you can be a law abiding Coloradan,

Sen. Cory Gardner: follow the state law,

Sen. Cory Gardner: follow the state constitution,

Sen. Cory Gardner: and still go to federal prison

Sen. Cory Gardner: because of this conflict in federal law.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Look, about 97, 98 percent of the entire population of

Sen. Cory Gardner: the United States lives in a state

Sen. Cory Gardner: that has legalized some form of marijuana.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Almost every state in the union has done

Sen. Cory Gardner: some part of this, whether it's medical,

Sen. Cory Gardner: whether it's hemp, whether it's,

Sen. Cory Gardner: ah, recreational where the CBD is.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Ah, a huge percentage

Sen. Cory Gardner: of the state lives in a state where we're

Sen. Cory Gardner: following state law could

Sen. Cory Gardner: still result in federal prison time,

Sen. Cory Gardner: and I just think that needs to be fixed.

J.D. Durkin: Ah, who else do you

J.D. Durkin: think will- will have your back in this.

J.D. Durkin: I know the state act and it's

J.D. Durkin: a virtual form you had other backers on this,

J.D. Durkin: but this is kind of a new idea to say, "Hey,

J.D. Durkin: we're talking about

J.D. Durkin: this criminal justice reform bill right now,

J.D. Durkin: it's got a lot of attention here on the Hill from

J.D. Durkin: both parties." Who else might support you in this?

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, Senator Warren is a co-sponsor of this,

Sen. Cory Gardner: it's- it warns across much of

Sen. Cory Gardner: this legislation and the States Act as well.

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, it's a bipartisan effort to put this

Sen. Cory Gardner: onto the- the- the criminal sentencing reform bill.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Ah, but I think we're probably going to be

Sen. Cory Gardner: blocked today by people

Sen. Cory Gardner: who don't want to have this voted on.

Sen. Cory Gardner: They can use, ah, procedure in the Senate to

Sen. Cory Gardner: block our effort to offer

Sen. Cory Gardner: the amendment which is too bad because it does have

Sen. Cory Gardner: I believe majority support in the US Senate.

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, this is a great point for us

Sen. Cory Gardner: to gain- gain more sponsors.

Sen. Cory Gardner: We've actually had in the last several days

Sen. Cory Gardner: different veterans groups come out in

Sen. Cory Gardner: support of the legislation now.

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, every time we do this,

Sen. Cory Gardner: we get closer and closer to a solution.

Sen. Cory Gardner: We have to fix this conflict

Sen. Cory Gardner: between federal and state law.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Too many states are doing it.

Sen. Cory Gardner: This conflict is getting more and more

Sen. Cory Gardner: challenging to- to businesses,

Sen. Cory Gardner: to banking, ah, to our communities.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Let's fix it, let's not just have

Sen. Cory Gardner: Congress continue with its head in the sand.

J.D. Durkin: Talk to us a bit more about the limitations

J.D. Durkin: currently in place for legal businesses.

J.D. Durkin: You talked about the fact that they could

J.D. Durkin: still be in violation of federal law.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Right. Yeah.

J.D. Durkin: I mean, talk to me if- for our viewers who don't know.

J.D. Durkin: If you have a dispensary or you're

J.D. Durkin: trying to act in good faith in this effort,

J.D. Durkin: you're limited with your interactions

J.D. Durkin: with the financial institution.

J.D. Durkin: So, what are the limitations that are in

J.D. Durkin: place for businesses,

J.D. Durkin: but they're trying to do the right thing.

Sen. Cory Gardner: They are, and that's the challenge, right?

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, to me there's two things,

Sen. Cory Gardner: there's a- there's a public hypocrisy

Sen. Cory Gardner: and a public safety issue here.

Sen. Cory Gardner: The public hypocrisy- the public safety issue is that

Sen. Cory Gardner: you have billions of dollars in

Sen. Cory Gardner: cash floating around the country,

Sen. Cory Gardner: can't go on banks because banks

Sen. Cory Gardner: won't take it because that's considered

Sen. Cory Gardner: money laundering even though it's legal in- in,

Sen. Cory Gardner: you know, almost every state in the country

Sen. Cory Gardner: right now, so banks won't touch it.

Sen. Cory Gardner: If you work there, you can't take

Sen. Cory Gardner: your paycheck to the bank to deposit it.

Sen. Cory Gardner: They won't give you

Sen. Cory Gardner: a homeowners- they will not give a loan on

Sen. Cory Gardner: your home to buy a home because they don't, ah,

Sen. Cory Gardner: they think it's money laundering at least

Sen. Cory Gardner: that's the way the federal government views,

Sen. Cory Gardner: ah, this situation right now.

Sen. Cory Gardner: That's the public- that's the sort of the public,

Sen. Cory Gardner: ah, safety issue.

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, let's get this money out of the shadows,

Sen. Cory Gardner: put it into the daylight,

Sen. Cory Gardner: so that it's away from you know,

Sen. Cory Gardner: warehouses of cash and truckloads of cars,

Sen. Cory Gardner: you know cash just driving around, put it into a bank,

Sen. Cory Gardner: get it out of the shadows into the sunlight.

Sen. Cory Gardner: The public hypocrisy is- is this.

Sen. Cory Gardner: The city of Denver can collect a tax on it,

Sen. Cory Gardner: they can take it to the bank, the bank will accept it.

Sen. Cory Gardner: It's not fair that somebody else can't do that,

Sen. Cory Gardner: why are we treating some people different than others?

J.D. Durkin: There seems to me to be an issue, and

J.D. Durkin: I've always thought to myself,

J.D. Durkin: why don't more Republicans embrace

J.D. Durkin: this specifically as a states rights issue.

J.D. Durkin: That's the heart of American conservatism.

J.D. Durkin: So, how do you win over other members

J.D. Durkin: of the Republican Party who don't

J.D. Durkin: see this issue the way that you

J.D. Durkin: do despite the fact that third party observers would say,

J.D. Durkin: could Republicans be the party of big pot to some degree?

Sen. Cory Gardner: Well I think that's the debate

Sen. Cory Gardner: that you're seeing right now is-

Sen. Cory Gardner: is the way we've focused at

Sen. Cory Gardner: being a states rights approach,

Sen. Cory Gardner: has actually gained a lot of Republican support for it.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Maybe they oppose legalization,

Sen. Cory Gardner: but saying to the people of

Sen. Cory Gardner: their state you can make this decision,

Sen. Cory Gardner: and we're going to protect and respect your decision,

Sen. Cory Gardner: basically is- is the approach that I have

Sen. Cory Gardner: taken through the states I was with Warren,

Sen. Cory Gardner: and I have put this together

Sen. Cory Gardner: with a bipartisan group of cosponsors.

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, I think that will gain

Sen. Cory Gardner: the majority of Republican

Sen. Cory Gardner: support in the House and the Senate.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Now we just have to make sure that we

Sen. Cory Gardner: get a chance to vote on it.

Sen. Cory Gardner: If we can vote on it, there's a straight up or down vote,

Sen. Cory Gardner: this thing will pass.

J.D. Durkin: But at the end of the day, you and I both know

J.D. Durkin: marijuana is still a Schedule One drug.

J.D. Durkin: It's on the list of things like

J.D. Durkin: MDMA, and ecstasy, and heroin.

J.D. Durkin: So, you have a lot of people out there saying,

J.D. Durkin: "Hey, this is all well and good,

J.D. Durkin: but in a day there has to be some kind of effort

J.D. Durkin: from lawmakers to schedule this,

J.D. Durkin: declassified this away from schedule one."

J.D. Durkin: What are your viewpoints on that?

J.D. Durkin: Will it ever happen and how does that happen?

Sen. Cory Gardner: Right.

Sen. Cory Gardner: I think you can see the struggle we have right now just

Sen. Cory Gardner: allowing the states rights approach to get through.

Sen. Cory Gardner: I think in the house, maybe they'll have enough votes

Sen. Cory Gardner: next year in next congress to do something like that,

Sen. Cory Gardner: but they still won't get that support in the Senate.

Sen. Cory Gardner: So, what we've crafted is a- is a pathway to

Sen. Cory Gardner: a Senate supported solution

Sen. Cory Gardner: that fixes the federal state law conflict,

Sen. Cory Gardner: that fixes the banking issue,

Sen. Cory Gardner: that fixes the tax questions,

Sen. Cory Gardner: and is something that can find

Sen. Cory Gardner: the bipartisan support necessary

Sen. Cory Gardner: to actually be signed into law.

Sen. Cory Gardner: I just spoke with the president again,

Sen. Cory Gardner: he supports this effort, ah,

Sen. Cory Gardner: he would he would sign this bill,

Sen. Cory Gardner: if it were to come before him on his desk.

J.D. Durkin: I have less than 30 seconds.

J.D. Durkin: I appreciate talking about this nearly two thirds

J.D. Durkin: of the country sends support,

J.D. Durkin: some degree of legalization with similar percentage

J.D. Durkin: who live in states where recreational [inaudible 00:05:50] a thing,

J.D. Durkin: ah, is it lawmakers here on Capitol Hill who

J.D. Durkin: are out of touch with the American people on this issue?

Sen. Cory Gardner: Well look, I think lawmakers were trying to ignore.

Sen. Cory Gardner: I mean they've got their heads stuck in

Sen. Cory Gardner: the sand unfortunately on this issue.

Sen. Cory Gardner: They continue to try to pretend it doesn't exist.

Sen. Cory Gardner: I haven't had one member of

Sen. Cory Gardner: the Senate come up to me and say, "Cory,

Sen. Cory Gardner: while you were all night have potheads

Sen. Cory Gardner: somewhere, I got Baptist's."

Sen. Cory Gardner: That's- that's- that's not right.

Sen. Cory Gardner: That's too- that's oversimplification

Sen. Cory Gardner: and overgeneralization.

Sen. Cory Gardner: Ah, and that's the kind of thinking though that

Sen. Cory Gardner: allows people to not focus on this.

Sen. Cory Gardner: We've got to get focused,

Sen. Cory Gardner: we've got to do the right thing,

Sen. Cory Gardner: fix the conflict, do

Sen. Cory Gardner: something that so many states are already doing.

Sen. Cory Gardner: This isn't going back, and now's your chance.