Democratic Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden and Representative Earl Blumenauer are urging Congress to pass legislation that would give legal marijuana businesses access to banking services. The lawmakers made their announcement at the Rivermark Community Credit Union in Portland.
Many cannabis companies are having a tough time opening a bank account and it is putting innocent people at risk. A bank account serves as the lifeline of any business and it is tough to operate (successfully) without one. The lack of support from financial institutions not only hinders growth, but also puts these all cash businesses in harm’s way.
Senator Merkley said, “There’s a reason most of us don’t walk around with thousands of dollars of cash stuffed in our backpacks. It’s an invitation to crime and malfeasance. But that’s what we are forcing legal Oregon businesses to do because financial institutions are prohibited from providing services. That must change.”
Bipartisan bill submitted in July
In July, a group of bipartisan senators from Oregon and Colorado introduced a bill that would legalize banking for recreational marijuana businesses. The bill would prohibit the federal government from penalizing banks that work with marijuana businesses.
The bill was sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (Democrat), Ron Wyden (Democrat), Michael Bennet (Democrat), Cory Gardner (Republican), and Patty Murray (Democrat).
Senator Gardner said, “If you’re an employee or a store owner you can’t put money in the bank, but if you’re a municipality collecting tax you can collect the tax, you can put it in the bank and you can spend it. This is insane. It solves a public safety issue, it clarifies a regulatory nightmare and it clears up a pretty blatant hypocrisy.”
Congress needs to come along
The bill the lawmakers are supporting would prevent banking regulators from penalizing, prohibiting or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business. It would also not allow the federal government to revoke a bank’s federal deposit insurance solely because it provides service to legal marijuana businesses.
Gardner noted that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch now supports a bipartisan bill which excludes cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of marijuana in federal law. Gardner expects Congress to eventually come along.
Gardner said, “Ever since Colorado voters approved the legalization of recreational marijuana, conflicting federal and state marijuana laws have required banks to refuse basic financial services to marijuana-related businesses in Colorado. In turn, this has forced the industry to adopt an all-cash business model that fosters violent crime and puts all Coloradans at risk.”