U.S. House OKs bank access for cannabis industry; bill moves to Senate

EUGENE, Ore. – The landmark SAFE Banking Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 321-103 on Wednesday afternoon.

If it becomes law, the bill would allow banks to

Advocates say it’s about public safety, saying it’s safer to work with credit and debit cards than strictly cash, which is vulnerable to theft.

Ebony Thalhamer, manager of Twenty after Four Wellness Center in Eugene, said the bill would bring in more customers and save her a lot of time running to businesses for money orders.

“There’s so many things that it affects, it affects our customers it affects us being able to drive cause I gotta drive to like 12 different spots just to get all my money orders to be able to go pay the feds or go pay the Oregon Department of Revenue; it takes a toll,” Thalhamer said.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bill would allow banks to work with the marijuana industry.

Currently, most cannabis shops deal strictly with cash because of federal laws, meaning customers can’t use their debit or credit cards at the dispensaries.

Now the bill is headed to the U.S. Senate.

“I am optimistic about the Senate,” said U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley. “I’ve been immersed in conversation with Senator Crapo from Idaho, he’s chair of the banking committee, he has some other issues he may want to graft onto the bill, related to the use of the banking system or related to doing studies of the levels of THC that are in different products; I think we can work together.”

It’s unclear how the Republican-led Senate will vote on the bill.

And Democratic support isn’t assured.

work with the cannabis industry.

Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, who is running for the party’s nomination for president, tweeted last week that “any marijuana legislation moving through Congress must include restorative justice for those most harmed by the War on Drugs in order to get my vote.”

According to Sen. Merkley’s office, the Chair of the Senate Banking Committee said he would like to hold a vote by the end of the year.