Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is introducing bipartisan legislation designed to protect insurers that offer coverage to cannabis businesses that are now legal at the state level across a growing swath of the country.

Menendez unveiled the bill with Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) before a high-profile Senate Banking Committee hearing this morning on the legal challenges banks face when serving cannabis-related companies as marijuana remains prohibited under federal statute.

"With New Jersey just expanding their medical marijuana program, and other states across the country legalizing recreational and medical cannabis, we must ensure these businesses can fully operate just as any other legal small business would," Menendez said in a statement.

"Current federal law prevents these small business owners from getting insurance coverage, and without it, they can't protect their property, employees, or customers," he said. "We can solve this problem with legislation that allows insurance companies to provide coverage to these enterprises without risk of federal prosecution or other unintended consequences."

Menendez's bill would provide legal protection to insurers that sell coverage to state-sanctioned and regulated cannabis businesses as well as associated businesses, including lawyers and landlords, according to a description of the legislation from the senator's office.

The bill would also shield employees of an insurer from liability related to selling insurance to a cannabis-related business.