Blumenauer, Perlmutter Reintroduce Federal Legislation to Give Cannabis Businesses Access to Banking Services

March 18, 2021
Press Release
Under SAFE Banking Act, cannabis businesses would not have to operate in cash, which has made Portland-area stores and workers a target for violent robberies.

Today, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, joined Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) to reintroduce federal legislation that would allow legitimate cannabis businesses access to banking services. The introduction of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act comes as Portland-area cannabis businesses and their workers continue to be targeted with violent robberies that have been linked to a system that forces cannabis businesses to deal almost exclusively in cash. 

Because of the federal prohibition on cannabis, banks and credit unions are currently prohibited from serving cannabis businesses, even with financial products as simple as savings accounts or payroll checks. Notwithstanding the financial and practical hardships facing legal cannabis businesses, forcing these businesses to operate on a cash-only basis creates a public safety risk and makes tracking revenue more difficult for tax purposes.  

“Addressing the irrational, unfair, and unsafe denial of banking services to legal cannabis businesses is not just an economic issue, but an urgent public safety issue that will save lives and livelihoods. In the past year, Portland’s cannabis shops were robbed, burglarized, or looted more than 100 times,” Blumenauer said. “During these violent attacks, cannabis workers have been threatened at gunpoint, zip-tied, and repeatedly targeted for simply doing their jobs. Tragically, we have already lost one Portland cannabis worker to this violence. 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. It is a critical element of cannabis reform that can’t wait.”   

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. 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.  

The legislation introduced today in the House would prohibit federal regulators from taking punitive measures against depository institutions that provide banking services to legitimate cannabis-related businesses and ancillary businesses like the electricians, plumbers, and the landlords that serve them. The SAFE Banking Act also requires a GAO study and annual regulator reports to Congress to ensure equal access to credit and to reduce barriers to marketplace entry for potential and existing minority- and women-owned cannabis-related businesses.  

The bill passed the House of Representatives three times in the 116th Congress with bipartisan support. The SAFE Banking Act is also expected to be reintroduced in the Senate in the coming days.