Merkley, Wyden, Blumenauer Push Legislation Clearing Marijuana Banking Smoke

Oregon’s federal legislators staged a news conference at Rivermark Community Credit Union, calling on Congress to allow legal marijuana businesses access to financial services. From left to right: Senator Ron Wyden, Rivermark Community Credit Union President and CEO Scott Burgess, Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative Earl Blumenauer.

With cameras from all of Portland’s television news outlets rolling, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (OR-D 3) held up a bag of cash to illustrate how legal marijuana businesses are banking their profits — because federal laws make it nearly impossible for credit unions or banks to provide financial services to those businesses.

Senator Merkley has introduced legislation to resolve that conflict and invited his beltway colleagues Blumenauer and Senator Wyden to join him at the news conference.

“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,” said Senator Merkley. “But that’s what we are forcing legal Oregon businesses to do because financial institutions are prohibited from providing services. That must change.”

“There is absolutely no justification for forcing thousands of legal marijuana business here in Oregon and across the United States to do their business on an all cash basis,” said Representative Blumenauer. “Not only does this stifle the ability of people to actually grow their businesses, this is a serious public safety issue that will only continue as more states reform their laws.”

Rivermark Community Credit Union, the setting for the news conference, does not serve marijuana related businesses, President and CEO Scott Burgess stressed. He added, however, that credit unions across Oregon believe financial institutions should be allowed to serve legal businesses without fear of repercussion from federal authorities.

“Rivermark was proud to host our distinguished guests to discuss an issue of critical importance to credit unions, the communities we serve, and to these legal small businesses,” Burgess said. “Rivermark, and credit unions around the State of Oregon, take pride in supporting all small businesses, and it should be a reasonable expectation that credit unions and other financial institutions are able to provide banking services without fear of repercussions from federal authorities. We thank Senator Merkley, Senator Wyden, and Congressman Blumenauer for their leadership on this important issue.”

Merkley, Wyden and Blumenauer are sponsoring federal legislation to clear the haze around marijuana banking. If passed the legislation will prevent federal regulators from:

  • Prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a credit union or bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business;
  • Terminating or limiting a financial institution’s deposit insurance solely because that financial institution is providing services to a state-sanctioned marijuana business;
  • Recommending or incentivizing a credit union or bank to halt or downgrade providing any kind of banking services to these businesses; or
  • Taking any action on a loan to an owner or operator of a marijuana-related business.

The legislation is supported by the Northwest Credit Union Association, according to President and CEO Troy Stang.

“This important legislation will provide protections for credit unions serving legal marijuana businesses in their communities, and solve major public safety concerns surrounding a cash based legal marijuana industry,” Stang noted.

“I support the will of the people of Oregon, and they have spoken clearly to legalize marijuana,” said Senator Wyden. “Federal banking laws must respect Oregonians’ voice with updated regulations so upstanding owners of small businesses that are legal in our state aren’t relegated into acting like thieves in the night skulking around with sacks full of cash.”

Questions about this story? Contact Lynn Heider: lheider@nwcua.org.

Posted in Federal.