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Senator Merkley Disappointed Banking Bill Blocked, Still Fighting

Jeff Merkley

There aren’t many elected officials working as hard to implement sensible cannabis policies than Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley these days. Unlike a lot of politicians, Merkley isn’t just jumping on the bandwagon after seeing poll after poll showing strong voter backing, he was the first United States Senator to endorse a legalization measure when he supported Oregon Measure 91 in 2014.

I had the opportunity to personally thank Senator Merkley for his endorsement a few years later, where he stated that he did so, because, “I just felt it was the right thing to do.” A couple of days after I thanked Sen. Merkley for his support of M91, he announced that he was endorsing Bernie Sanders for president, the only United States Senator to do so. As we’ve seen time and time again, including when he led the charge to protest the treatment of children at the United States border, eventually forcing a change in federal policy.

Merkley, demonstrating his sensible nature, has introduced a common-sense amendment to allow state-regulated cannabis businesses access to banking services. Unfortunately, the banking amendment hasn’ made it out of committee, with even a few of his fellow Democrats opposing the proposal. BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith asked the Oregon Senator about how he felt about his banking amendment getting bottled up in committee, as Marijuana Moment’s Tom Angell reported:

“I was disappointed,” Merkley said in an interview with BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith on Monday. “We had passed this twice before.” We need to establish banking for cannabis because a cash economy is an invitation to money laundering and theft and cheating your employees and cheating on your taxes [and] organized crime. All bad.”

“I accompanied the owner of a company who had $70,000 in his backpack to pay quarterly taxes,” Merkley recounted in response to the cannabis banking question on Monday, which was suggested to BuzzFeed by Marijuana Moment’s editor. “It’s so bizarre going down the freeway and talking about how they have to pay their employees in cash, have to pay their suppliers in cash. It’s a bad system.”

“Everyone should agree: States’ rights on this. Let the states have an electronic system to track what these businesses are doing, not billions of dollars floating around like this.”

With Senator Merkley on the list of potential Democratic presidential candidates, the cannabis community, and those interested in a progressive yet pragmatic candidate that stands up for his principles, should consider supporting him. Thanks to Sen. Merkley, we’ll continue seeing more progress at the federal level, and who knows, we might just seen a future President Merkley signing a bill to end the failed, harmful, and racist policy of cannabis prohibition in a few short years.

Learn the latest about the cannabis industry in Oregon, around the nation, and across the world at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference this September 27th-28th in beautiful Portland, Oregon. Get your tickets by September 12th to save $200!

Ben Smith, BuzzFeed, Jeff Merkley, Marijuana Moment, Tom Angell