The path to marijuana banking clarity might not be so straight forward, according to one key lawmaker.

Marijuana banking legislation should be coupled with comprehensive criminal sentencing reform, new Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), said last week — a decision that could complicate enactment of the cannabis legislation.

“I am willing to look at moving on the SAFE Act, but with it needs to come sentencing reform,” Brown told “I don’t think we move on legalization the way that Colorado and some other states want us to, unless we really look more seriously at who’s in prison for how long for those kinds of offenses and we don’t do one without the other.”

Sentencing reform does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Banking Committee; it falls under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary committees in both houses.

“We’re not going to move without working with the Judiciary Committee on that at the same time,” Brown said.

The House passed marijuana banking legislation during the last Congress, but the Senate never considered the legislation.

The primary sponsor of the House legislation, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), now chairs the House Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee., increasing the likelihood that the House once again will consider the bill.

And as the 117th Congress began, the two national credit union trade groups remained divided over marijuana banking.

CUNA and several other groups have endorsed legislation to provide a safe harbor for financial institutions that provide services to cannabis-related business. And they have not taken a position on decriminalization of marijuana.

NAFCU has continued to take a more cautious approach.

“NAFCU supports clarity surrounding the issue of banking marijuana businesses for credit unions that are seeking this ability or undertaking it already,” Carrie Hunt, NAFCU’s EVP of government affairs and general counsel, said.

She said NAFCU has not taken a position on decriminalization of marijuana, but added, “to date, NAFCU has supported legislative efforts to clarify our members’ ability to bank marijuana businesses in states where it is legal, but until Congress addresses the core issue as to the legality of marijuana, none of those legislative efforts give credit unions complete insulation from risk.”

Meanwhile, some Democratic senators have said they plan to introduce legislation comprehensive marijuana legislation that also could deal with the banking issue. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said they will release a discussion draft early in this Congress.

-Credit Union Times