Oregon legislators lead call on Congress to remove cannabis as Controlled Substance

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State legislators are calling on Congress to lift the federal prohibition on cannabis and remove it as a controlled substance as defined in the Controlled Substances Act.

Legislators are pulling for this so legal business in the cannabis industry can begin accessing banking services.

National Conference of State Legislators passed a directive on Wednesday calling on Congress to help those businesses access banking services and let states determine the path to cannabis regulation. The directive was put together primarily by Oregon legislators and taken at the group's annual conference in Los Angeles.

Because cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance, businesses are not able to use traditional banking services.

“Thirty states, the District of Columbia and Guam already allow some form of legal cannabis use,” Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, said. “We are trying to create an above-board, legitimate industry, where for many years only an unregulated market prevailed. It’s past time for Congress to finally help us do that by removing cannabis from the federal Controlled Substances Act. Operating as a cash-only business invites crime and hinders our work to improve public safety. When businesses in this industry begin using banking services, it will lead to better regulation and improve access to capital. Congress needs to step up and help us make sure this legal industry is properly regulated and contributing to our states’ economies.”

Currently, banks and other financial institutions are at risk if they provide banking services to legal cannabis businesses. According to the NCSL, cash-only businesses risk inaccurate accounting and "invite public safety issues."

“The cannabis industry is making big contributions to Oregon’s economy, and giving these business owners access to secure banking is critical to their ongoing success,” Senate Republican Leader Jackie Winters, R-Salem, said. “Voters across the nation have shown support for the legal cannabis industry, it is time for the federal government to take the necessary steps and de-schedule cannabis in order to promote safety, security, and remove barriers to much needed research.”

Oregon legislators have passed similar resolutions at NCSL since 2016. This year, NCSL demonstrated the highest possible commitment to this policy by making it a directive.

“It is imperative that the federal government take action on de-scheduling cannabis,” Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-NW Portland and Beaverton, said. “In Oregon, we are doing all that we can to protect cannabis businesses, the public, and provide support for the safe keeping and transfer of millions of dollars from the cannabis industry in our state, but at this point, our hands are tied.”

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