Appropriations Committee Passes Merkley Amendment to Provide Access to Banking Services for Legal Marijuana Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the financial services appropriations bill, which included an amendment from Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley to ensure that legal marijuana businesses can access banking services. Senator Merkley’s amendment is similar to bipartisan legislation that he introduced last week.

Currently, marijuana businesses operating under state laws that have legalized medicinal or recreational marijuana have been mostly denied access to the banking system because banks that provide them services can be sanctioned or shut down under federal law. Without the ability to access bank accounts, accept credit cards, or write checks, businesses must operate using large amounts of cash. This creates safety risks for businesses and surrounding communities, and makes it more difficult for local and state governments to collect taxes. 

“The federal government should not be forcing Oregon’s legal marijuana businesses here in Oregon to carry gym bags full of cash to operate their business,” said Merkley. “This is an invitation to robberies, money laundering, and organized crime. We need to enable our banks to serve these legal businesses without fearing devastating reprisals from the federal government.”

The amendment, passed as part of the financial services appropriations bill, would prevent federal banking regulators from prohibiting, penalizing or discouraging a bank from providing financial services to a legitimate state-sanctioned and regulated marijuana business.