A new amendment introduced by Colorado Senator Cory Gardner includes some familiar language, as the senator continues a fight he began earlier this year in conjunction with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Sen. Gardner has introduced an amendment to The First Step Act, a criminal justice reform measure introduced by representatives of both the Republican and Democratic parties and up for vote in the Senate this week. Gardner’s amendment is similar to that he introduced with Sen. Warren in June. The focus is on protection for states, territories, tribes, and Washington, D.C. from enforcement of federal laws under the Controlled Substances Act, provided the specific area has their own laws in place regarding a substance.
Sen. Gardner’s amendment would leave some facets of the Controlled Substances Act as they are, including laws regarding employment of minors under the age of 18 at a legal marijuana business and also language regarding endangering human life, sales of marijuana to those under the age of 21 and also regarding the sale of marijuana at federal transportation facilities.
The FIrst Step Act has been reworked since passing the House earlier this year, as the Senate attempted to ease more sentences that involve federal prison. Sen. Gardner’s stance is that protection from prosecution at the federal level is a vital area of focus as reform is addressing criminal justice, making this attachment the most logical yet.
The amendment also addresses another pressing issue for the marijuana industry: the concern federal banks have in handling marijuana profits. The amendment would allow banks to provide support to marijuana businesses without facing federal prosecution, a move that would be welcome for various marijuana vendors and producers who are paying bills like taxes in cash because they have no other recourse.
The measures would apply for banks located where marijuana has been legalized, allowing banks to provide bank accounts for marijuana businesses and not deal with federal repercussions. This move would be a significant benefit to the banks, where revenue opportunities are being missed. It also would be a stress reliever for marijuana growers, producers, distributors and vendors, who all have to find money management techniques that don’t involve bank deposits.