PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As more legal cannabis workers die as the result of dispensary-targeted armed robberies, Oregon lawmakers are leading the charge to pass federal marijuana banking reform through Washington.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders Wednesday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) called for the SAFE Banking Act to be included in its entirety as part of the final report for the America COMPETES Act — arguing that without it, legal cannabis shops which have been forced to primarily operate as “cash-only” businesses will remain the targets of violent crime.
“Forty-seven states, four U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia have already enacted some level of cannabis reform,” the congressmen wrote. “As all levels of government continue to advance comprehensive cannabis reforms, addressing the irrational, unfair, and unsafe denial of banking services to state-legal cannabis businesses must be a top priority.”
First introduced by Rep. Perlmutter and Senator Jeff Merkley in 2017, the SAFE Banking Act was greenlit in the House five times, before its most recent passage in February 2022 as an amendment to the America COMPETES Act.
If enacted into law, Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act would grant legal cannabis businesses access to the banking system — a feature that is currently denied in states with legal marijuana markets.
“The SAFE Banking Act is crucial for small operators, especially those owned and staffed by people of color and those who have already been punished during the War on Drugs,” the letter continued. “We have repeatedly seen these small businesses be denied access to the banking alternatives available to large operators and independently wealthy operators. This leaves these local businesses and community-based entrepreneurs dependent on cash-only operations that are vulnerable targets for violent crime.”
The Congressmen continued, “Whereas many large operators have the privilege of banking alternatives and costly hired security, small and minority-owned businesses face this threat alone. The results are devastating.”
Oregon and Washington are among several states which have legalized the use of recreational cannabis and have seen a recent increase in violent robberies targeting marijuana dispensaries.
The letter’s authors count themselves among a growing list of lawmakers who view the passage of the SAFE Banking Act as a critical matter of life or death, writing in the letter that without it, the public safety of small business workers and underserved community members would continue to be threatened.
“Just last month, three people were killed in one week during robberies targeting cannabis businesses in Washington State,” the congressman stated. “This violence is widespread and ongoing, and it punishes the communities already most vulnerable and targeted in the War on Drugs.”
According to the letter, 10 Republican House Conferees and all Democratic House Conferees have currently voted to pass the SAFE Banking Act.