A group of Oregon lawmakers is pushing for a set of legislative changes that would allow legal marijuana businesses in the state to use banks to handle their money.
The sale of recreational marijuana, which begins in October in Oregon and is already legal in neighboring Washington, is a cash-only business.
That's because banks operate under federal jurisdiction and can be punished for providing services to marijuana-related companies. Under federal law, marijuana is still illegal.
Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley teamed up with senators from Colorado and Washington to support a bill in the U.S. Senate that would allow pot businesses to use banks, thereby being able to take advantage of advantage of services like accepting debit cards and writing checks.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer is pursuing similar legislation in the House of Representatives.
The lawmakers met at a Rivermark Community Credit Union branch in southeast Portland Tuesday to discuss the proposals.
Sen. Wyden said having large amounts of cash on hand amounts to a safety issue for those businesses.
"It's my own view that having Oregonians who are operating legal businesses running around like thieves in the night with sackfuls of cash is a magnet for crime, and that is what we are seeking to stop," Wyden said.
Merkley added that in addition making business safer, changing the law would encourage business growth in Oregon's economy.
"[Not being able to use banks] means no deposits at the end of the day, it means no checks to suppliers; you pay them with bags of cash," Merkley said. "It means not accepting credit cards from customers and no paychecks to your employees and no checks to pay your taxes."
Oregonians who are 21 and older will be able to buy marijuana (using cash only) at recreational marijuana dispensaries starting Oct. 1.
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