SAFE Act Dead for 2022, Would Have Extended Banking Services to Cannabis Industry

Cash-only transactions expose retailers to unnecessary danger.

Oregon politicians led by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, both Democrats, have long pushed to overturn the federal prohibition on banks providing services to the legal cannabis industry.

Because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, federal banking regulators have discouraged banks from accepting deposits or providing credit or other services even to legitimate cannabis businesses in the states that have legalized cannabis.

The result: Retailers, such as those in Oregon, can only accept cash. That is highly inconvenient for customers and worse for retailers—imagine lugging a duffel bag full of bills to Salem each quarter to pay taxes to the Oregon Department of Revenue.

As WW has reported, being a cash-only business also makes cannabis retailers an easier target for robbery. Portland has experienced a rash of such crimes.

Related: For Nearly a Year, Teenagers Have Been Robbing Portland Dispensaries. Then Somebody Shot a Budtender

Blumenauer and Wyden, along with their colleagues from other weed-friendly states, such as California, Colorado and Washington, have argued for a common-sense solution and, in June, the House passed the SAFE Banking Act for the seventh time.

Proponents, who include members from both sides of the aisle in Congress, the governors of 21 states, and a laundry list of special interests, including the American Bankers Association, hoped it would finally pass the Senate in the current lame-duck session. But yesterday, Senate Republican leadership signaled that the SAFE Banking Act would not be part of a massive budget bill currently under negotiation.

Wyden, Oregon’s senior senator, expressed irritation at the failure.

“I am frustrated and disappointed that after coming so close to meaningful cannabis reform this Congress, the Republican Leader and a handful of Republican senators thwarted our efforts to improve public safety,” Wyden said.

“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.”

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