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The SAFER Banking Act

I want to take a moment to talk about cannabis and why we should end the federal prohibition on it.

More than half of the United States — in red states and blue states — has enacted legislation allowing for either medical or recreational adult-use of cannabis, yet it remains illegal under federal law.

This creates significant problems, not only with the prosecution of nonviolent cannabis crimes — which disproportionately hurts people of color — but also with the lack of banking services for legally operating businesses, which forces these businesses to operate in an all-cash environment that's unsafe and lacks accountability.

In 2014, I was the first U.S. Senator to support legalizing marijuana in their state at the federal level for many reasons. And I’m continuing to introduce legislation that would make it safer for businesses and consumers.

In 2023, I introduced a bipartisan bill, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, that would end the cannabis cash economy and ensure cannabis businesses have access to banking and financial services — including bank accounts and small business loans — they need to operate safely. This bill, a successor to the SAFE Banking Act, which I have led since 2015, is an important step forward for cannabis businesses.

The cash cannabis economy is dangerous for everyone.

  • It’s dangerous for the retailers – with more than 100 retail outlets robbed in the last year in Oregon alone.
  • It’s dangerous for customers arriving with cash in their pocket and employees who might be leaving with their monthly pay in their pocket.
  • It’s dangerous for owners who might be transporting cash to the State Capitol to pay their quarterly taxes.
  • It’s an open invitation to money laundering and organized crime.

None of this is good for anyone, and it needs to change with the passage of the SAFER Banking Act.

In addition, our veterans deserve access to treatments like medical marijuana that help address PTSD and other conditions. Outdated laws should never censor veterans' doctor-patient relationships. That's why I supported an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2024 Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to protect veterans' ability to discuss with VA physicians the use of medical cannabis in states where it is legal.

Finally, I support the Marijuana Justice Act, which would decriminalize marijuana by removing it from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act. The legislation also seeks to reverse failed drug policies that disproportionately impact communities of color by expunging federal possession convictions and reinvesting in communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.

Cannabis has been legalized or decriminalized in many states across the country, but federal law still lags behind. Americans are ready for progress on cannabis, and these bills are much-needed steps to make our country a more equitable place as well as create opportunities for small cannabis businesses to operate safely.



Posted on April 20, 2024.

Born in the small town of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, Jeff Merkley has never lost touch with his working class roots.

As a U.S. Senator, he works every day to create opportunity for working families, stop the corruption of our democracy, and tackle the climate crisis.

A workhorse and a progressive champion, Jeff Merkley is leading a movement to get our country back on track.

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