The marijuana industry is growing rapidly, but banking practices have not kept pace. Many banks refuse to handle cannabis money because using marijuana is against federal law. That means the industry must deal in cash.
The California Board of Equalization held a meeting in Sacramento today to discuss the problem.
Jamie Kerr founded a medical cannabis dispensary in Shasta County. She says she’s hopeful the meeting will lead to some solutions, but she knows the state is limited in what it can do.
"For any significant change to take place we’ll need to see significant change at the federal level," she says. "That’s really what’s holding this industry back.”
Kerr says doing business in cash is unsafe and inconvenient.
BOE Board member Fiona Ma says the problem also extends to tax payments.
"The only legal way for these dispensaries to pay is to pay it to us, the Board of Equalization, and then we can go across the street and put it in a bank," she says.
Ma says BOE offices aren’t equipped to deal with large amounts of cash. She convened the meeting to look for other solutions. For instance, she says California could set up a temporary depository for businesses.
But the federal government has vetoed solutions created by other states. And a true resolution may depend on the federal government providing protection for banks that work with marijuana businesses.