U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) on Thursday reintroduced legislation that would allow cannabis businesses to access banking, called the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
In the announcement, the congressmen extensively cited WW's March 3 reporting on a concerning wave of cannabis shop robberies and burglaries in Portland.
"Because cannabis businesses don't have bank accounts and are forced to store large amounts of cash on site, they have become easy and frequent targets for robberies, which puts workers at risk," the press release said. "According to recent reporting by Willamette Week, in the past 10 months alone, Portland cannabis shops were robbed, burglarized, or looted 95 times—often at gunpoint—resulting in one tragic fatality."
As WW reported, cannabis dispensaries in the Portland metro area reported being robbed, burglarized or looted more than 100 times between March of 2020 and 2021.
One of the major factors why cannabis shops are so vulnerable: The businesses are forced to operate almost exclusively in cash, due to the federal illegality of cannabis. That means cannabis retailers can't accept credit card transactions or keep bank accounts, among other limitations.
In Portland, the robberies and burglaries began to escalate last summer. In August, an employee at the Fidus dispensary in Multnomah Village was robbed at gunpoint, assaulted and zip-tied. The suspects made off with approximately $130,000 worth of products and $125,000 in cash.
The incidents continued into the fall and winter, culminating in the murder of 44-year-old Michael Arthur, an employee of Cured Green dispensary in North Portland, during a Dec. 14 armed robbery.
"During these violent attacks, cannabis workers have been threatened at gunpoint, zip-tied, and repeatedly targeted for simply doing their jobs," Blumenauer said in a statement Thursday. "Tragically, we have already lost one Portland cannabis worker to this violence."
During the Trump administration, the bill passed in the House three times, where it subsequently died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. But, as Blumenauer previously told WW, there's now a chance that it can pass.
"Thousands more people will continue to have a target on their back if Congress does not address the lack of banking access that is posing a real danger to cannabis workers, businesses, and our communities," Blumenauer said Thursday. "It is a critical element of cannabis reform that can't wait."