Oregon to feds: fix the marijuana banking crisis

PORTLAND, Ore.  – This week, 25 members of the Oregon Cannabis Association are in Washington, DC to educate lawmakers and urge support for the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act (S. 987/H.R. 1855). The Act, sponsored in the Senate by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, would prohibit federal regulators from targeting banks serving marijuana businesses that are legal and licensed under state law.

Also this week, Oregon State Treasurer Ted Wheeler called on the U.S. Department of the Treasury to  issue guidance to banks to increase access to banking services  "Regulatory regimes must catch up with the practical effects of the rapid evolution in public attitudes and policy preferences toward marijuana," he wrote.

Currently, the threat of federal prosecution means most FDIC insured banks won’t serve marijuana businesses. Even allied businesses, like the laboratories that perform state-mandated testing of products sold in dispensaries, are forced to operate on an all-cash basis.

“We have a banking crisis in our communities and in our industry, and we can’t sit by and wait for someone else to fix it,” said Meghan Walstatter, who is a co-owner of Pure Green, a medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon. “Operating an all-cash business creates huge problems in paying our employees, vendors, and taxes. It means that we and our suppliers are at much greater risk for robberies and theft. The safety of our employees and our communities is clearly threatened.”

The Washington visit comes on the heels of the first annual Oregon cannabis industry fundraising dinner honoring Congressman Earl Blumenauer. The event in Portland last week drew more than 300 supporters and raised more than $100,000 – one of the largest amounts raised in a single night for a Congressional candidate in Oregon. Congressman Blumenauer has been a strong supporter of marijuana banking reform efforts as well as a co-sponsor, with Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, of tax fairness legislation that would allow marijuana businesses operating under state law to take standard business deductions.

“We are seeing tremendous unity and leadership from members of the Oregon cannabis industry,” said Amy Margolis, who represents the Oregon Cannabis Association. “This level of engagement and problem-solving is unprecedented at the state level. This is an industry that has found its voice, and we want that voice heard in Washington.”

For more information: ORCannabisAssociation@gmail.com