Who says Congress is slacking off this summer? A day after the House passed a bipartisan bill to bar state and federal governments from taxing internet service forever, lawmakers in the lower chamber passed a bill Wednesday aimed at giving legal marijuana businesses access to regular banking services. The amendment to an appropriations bill, which passed 231-192, prohibits financial regulators from spending any money to prosecute banks that do business with marijuana growers and purveyors in states where pot is legal.
Banks have generally refrained from doing business with marijuana operations because while the drug is now legal in Colorado and Washington, and partly legal in dozens of other states — Washington, D.C., decriminalized weed at midnight tonight — possession and sale of pot still violates federal law. Also on Wednesday, the House rejected a measure that would have voided Treasury Department guidelines announced in February aimed at sort-of getting banks to work with the legal pot industry.
So really, the GOP-led House voted for legal marijuana twice in one day — another milepost on pot's long, strange trip to respectability. In May, the House passed another bill the prohibited the Justice Department and DEA from interfering with state medical marijuana programs. It's not clear that any of these wills will be cleared by the Senate. The pot industry is still celebrating. "This is a huge step forward for the legal cannabis industry," said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, in a statement. At least it's a baby step.