Senate Marijuana Bill Would Open Up Banking, Stock Exchanges

 Updated on 
  •  Schumer bill to take marijuana off list of controlled drugs
  •  Person familiar with talks says drug tests an ongoing issue

Schumer’s Pot Bill Would Open Up Banking, Stock Exchanges

By Tiffany Kary

A new Senate bill to legalize marijuana would let cannabis companies use banking services and trade on major stock exchanges, according to a person involved in negotiations on the legislation, a potentially dramatic breakthrough for an industry long stymied by federal restrictions.

The sweeping new legislation, a draft of which Senate Democrats plan to release Wednesday, would also direct some tax revenue from marijuana sales to minority communities, which faced disproportionate arrests for marijuana possession, keep some federal drug testing provisions, and give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration oversight of cannabis regulation, the person said.

Past proposals to legalize marijuana have stalled amid a lack of support from Republicans. The new Democratic proposal, from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, is more comprehensive than previous efforts in how it addresses regulations.

Schumer’s office didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages.

Some cannabis companies rose on the news in late trading Tuesday. Tilray Inc.’s shares rose as much as 4.5%, Canopy Growth Corp. rose 1.6% and Aurora Cannabis Inc. climbed 1.7%.

The decision not to pursue abolishing federal drug testing was controversial, and is likely to be a hot topic among senators, according to the person, who has taken part in negotiations over the past year.

Taking marijuana off the list of controlled substances, rather than simply re-listing it as a less dangerous drug or decriminalizing possession, would remove the most difficult regulatory burdens from U.S. marijuana companies, allowing them to take tax deductions, hold bank accounts and loans, and list on U.S. stock exchanges such as the Nasdaq and the NYSE.

The bill would give the FDA oversight not just of pharmaceutical products that involve cannabis, but also of food products, the person said. As of the most recent draft, it was unclear whether premarket approvals would be needed for cannabis products.

The bill would also expunge past criminal records for marijuana arrests, the person said. And it would restrict cannabis products to those age 21 and over, require product testing and establish a way to control drugged driving, the person said.

The bill defers many regulatory decisions to the states, and also includes a provision that would give all businesses a lower tax rate, up to a certain limit, according to the person. That provision, the person said, was written to help smaller businesse