Rep. Blumenauer touts bank financing for pot


In a letter to the FDIC, Portland’s representative said banks should be allowed to do business with marijuana-related companies.

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BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

In a letter to the FDIC, Portland’s representative said banks should be allowed to do business with marijuana-related companies.

Portland Business Journal reported on Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s letter to the bank-regulatory group.

“With legal marijuana sales projected to hit $8 billion by 2018, the need for regulators to get this right is as great as the need for access to reliable banking services,” Blumenauer wrote. “In addition to obvious business needs, this is a matter of grave public safety. I have led efforts in Congress to protect financial institutions as they expand these services, and I have encouraged the Obama administration to find a workable solution.”

Blumenauer specifically cited Gresham-based MBank’s decision to not offer services to Colorado-based marijuana service providers. Whereas MBank says the decision stemmed from an overly high demand for services, one media report said it instead resulted from FDIC pressure to forego working with such businesses.

MBank’s issues with serving Colorado companies were varied, reports the Denver Post.

“We’ve become accustomed to our banking solutions not actually working out,” said Michael Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group. “After they got all that press, I was wondering if they’d get increased scrutiny and pressure as a result — just like all the other banks have.”

Part of the issue, Baker said, was MBank’s lack of a Colorado branch, which would require approval from state banking authorities. It did not need approval to accept deposits from Colorado businesses. Without a branch, cash deposits — millions of dollars that often must be treated with cleaners such as Febreze to remove the pungent marijuana smell — would have to be made at a Federal Reserve Bank, such as the one located in downtown Denver. From there, deposits would be electronically credited to MBank’s accounts, then to its marijuana-business depositors.

 




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