Southern Oregon — The federal illegality of marijuana is preventing cannabis business owners in Southern Oregon from buying a home.
However, Oregon’s legislators think the issue could potentially be fixed.
“The last thing you want is to have billions of dollars running around the country… Outside our electronic banking system,” Senator Merkley said.
“People are going to run their business in cash and then walk around in the middle of the night with their money in a wheelbarrow? This is just absurd,” Senator Wyden said.
Oregon U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden agree something has to be done for Oregon’s marijuana business owners.
Since cannabis is still illegal federally, dispensary owners are unable to get a home loan or even bank in general.
“We should absolutely enable the banking system to provide support… And that includes providing mortgages to people who work in the industry,” Senator Merkley said.
Right now, there aren’t any options in Oregon.
Senator Wyden says he thinks it’s a systemic problem within the federal government.
“So many of the politicians in Washington D.C. say ‘I believe in 10th amendment, I believe in states rights’, but they really only believe in states rights if they think the state is right,” Senator Wyden said.
Senator Wyden says he wants to pass a bi-partisan bill to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, his counterpart, Senator Merkley, says he’s already been working on legislation.
“I have actually passed in the Appropriations Committee twice, a bill that would enable the banks to provide banking services,” Senator Merkley said.
In addition to the bill, Senator Merkley also wants to take marijuana off the Schedule I list.
Schedule I is a classification from the Drug Enforcement Administration which lists marijuana alongside Heroin and LSD.
Schedule I drugs have the highest potential for abuse and have no accepted medical use according to the DEA.
“One other reason we need to get it off Schedule I is so we can do research on and actually understand the medicinal applications,” Senator Merkley said.
If marijuana is removed from the list, Senator Merkley believes the government would be more on board with the states.
It’s something Senator Wyden would also like to see.
“When a state makes the judgement that this kind of activity — recreational marijuana should be legal according to state laws — the federal government should not be able to cut off that right… By saying well you can’t use the banking system which is regulated federally,” Senator Wyden said.
NBC5 News reached out to multiple credit unions in Oregon and Washington that have been known to help marijuana business owners.
Some declined interview requests, others simply never responded.
To watch part 3 of this series, click here.
NBC5 News Multimedia Journalist Elizabeth Ruiz was raised in Northern Colorado. She graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Journalism and Media Communication. She also minored in Spanish and studied in Spain. While at Colorado State, she was an anchor and reporter for CTV Channel 11.
Elizabeth loves Zumba dancing, singing and spending time with her family.