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‘We have to do it right.’ California lawmaker pulls cannabis banking bill ahead of floor vote

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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.
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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.

A California bill that would authorize banks and credit unions to do business with cannabis companies on a limited basis has been pulled by its sponsor.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, announced that he intends to make Senate Bill 51 a two-year bill, re-introducing the legislation in early 2020.

“If we’re going to do this, we have to do it right,” Hertzberg said in prepared remarks. “We owe it to the dozens of cities, counties, and cannabis industry officials who have been supporting this effort to see it through.”

Though legal in California, marijuana remains an illegal substance under federal law, making federally-insured banks and credit unions reluctant to do business with cannabis companies. SB 51 would allow those financial institutions to accept deposits from, and issue “special purpose checks to, cannabis companies.”

The bill had the support of California Treasurer Fiona Ma, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

“I will continue to champion this issue on behalf of business investors as well as constituents that voted for a healthy, legal cannabis industry in California,” Ma said in prepared remarks. “I remain committed and am looking forward to working with Governor Newsom and Senator Hertzberg on SB 51 as a top priority for January when the Legislature reconvenes.”

Before it was pulled, SB 51 was set to be voted on on the Assembly floor.

“Because the bill contains an urgency clause and has already cleared a majority of legislative hurdles, there remains a path for it to go into effect in early 2020,” according to a statement from Hertzberg’s office.

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Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for McClatchy. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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