Oregon, other AGs urge marijuana banking legislation

Say businesses 'forced to hide in dark shadows'

SALEM, Ore. - Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on Tuesday joined 19 other attorneys general to urge Congress to advance legislation allowing states with legalized medical or recreational marijuana to bring that commerce into the banking system.

Banks are currently hindered by federal law from providing financial services to marijuana businesses, even in states where those businesses are regulated.

The letter, which was sent to congressional leaders Tuesday, requests legislation that would provide a legal “safe harbor” for banking institutions that provide a financial product or service to businesses involved in the marijuana industry.

Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is a co-sponsor of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would ensure that legal cannabis businesses can access banking services.

“Oregon’s legal marijuana industry is thriving under the carefully considered state regulatory requirements we have put in place," Rosenblum said. "However, in the years we have had medical marijuana, and now recreational marijuana, these businesses have been forced to hide in the dark shadows of the banking industry.

"It is both dangerous and short-sighted to inhibit banks from accepting money from law-abiding businesses in states with legal medical or recreational marijuana. It’s time Congress acts to make ensure the marijuana industry is lawfully brought into the banking industry," she added.

The state attorneys general also note a recent decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to rescind guidance outlining how financial institutions could provide services to state-licensed marijuana businesses consistent with federal law.

That rescission, the attorneys general argue, has made even more urgent the need for congressional action to get the cash generated by this industry into a regulated banking sector.

“Twenty-nine states and several U.S. territories have legalized the medical use of marijuana. Among those, eight states and the District of Columbia also allow recreational use by adults over 21 years of age. However, because federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance, banks providing services to state-licensed cannabis businesses could find themselves subject to criminal and civil liability under the Controlled Substances Act and certain federal banking statutes,” the letter states.

Joining Rosenblum in Tuesday’s letter were attorneys general from Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington.

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