PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The SAFE Banking Act, a piece of legislation that would have allowed state-regulated cannabis businesses to access banking services, did not make it into the omnibus, $1.7-trillion government funding bill federal lawmakers are set to vote on this week.
The act was supported by Republicans and Democrats, including Oregon Democratic senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer.
New details of what’s included in the federal spending bill were released Tuesday and the SAFE Banking Act was one of several items that had been cut.
Wyden issued a statement in response to the decision. In it, he said he was frustrated and disappointed the bill was rejected. He felt lawmakers had come “so close” to meaningful cannabis reform.
“The Republican Leader and a handful of Republican senators thwarted our efforts to improve public safety. Because when you are forcing businesses to operate as cash only, it is a public safety issue. While action on SAFE Banking may no longer be possible in 2022, you better believe I’m going to keep fighting in the new Congress to bring common sense to the federal treatment of cannabis and begin to repair the harms done by the failed War on Drugs,” Wyden wrote.
In the days leading up to the decision as to what would be included in the omnibus bill, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had made a final push to include the SAFE Banking Act in the bill.
Currently, in Oregon, cannabis businesses are only allowed to conduct business in cash. No card transactions are allowed, due to federal restrictions on the drug.
To support cannabis shops in Oregon, in-state credit unions have been able to offer them some traditional banking services. Some have also provided cannabis business insurance.
However, the options and protections are not as vast as those available to other businesses through the federal banking system. Lawmakers who supported the SAFE Banking Act said the current regulations lock out cannabis businesses from the banking system, making it difficult for them to maintain a checking account, access credit, accept credit and debit cards, meet payroll, or pay tax revenue.
“This has created a significant public safety risk, as these businesses are forced to operate as cash-only businesses in an industry with billions of dollars in transactions. These high-volume cash businesses are being targeted by violent criminals and putting our communities at risk,” wrote Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who was the chief sponsor of the bill.
He had hoped the SAFE Banking Act would harmonize federal and state law by preventing federal regulators from punishing institutions that provide banking services to licensed cannabis businesses.