Cash-only dispensaries could be on the way out in MO, lawmakers debate | New
Medical marijuana companies in the United States are struggling to find banks that will provide financial services because marijuana is a controlled substance banned by the federal government.
Senate Bill 489, if passed, would allow Missouri banks to provide financial services to medical marijuana businesses. State Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, is the sponsor of the bill that would allow businesses to receive loans, make deposits and invest funds.
While the bill cannot circumvent federal law, Roberts said federal restrictions on marijuana are not followed with the permission of medical marijuana dispensaries anyway. He mentioned that some city prosecutors do not enforce federal marijuana laws.
Many Missouri medical marijuana businesses are forced to operate as cash payment facilities only because of the difficulty in obtaining financial services. Roberts said this creates a public safety concern for the owners and employees of the company, while adding a burden to the business.
Jay Patel, founder and CEO of the Green Releaf Dispensary, testified in support of the bill. He said about four banks in Missouri provide financial services to medical marijuana businesses, and the Green Releaf Dispensary is fortunate enough to receive financial services from one of the banks.
With 192 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Missouri, Patel said there aren’t enough banks to provide business services.
After the hearing, Patel spoke about the public safety concerns associated with having a bank hours away from the company. He said his business needs to keep his money in the business or in a remote location before bringing it to the bank. With multiple locations for his business, Patel said deposits can sometimes reach $ 400,000. With such large deposits, the bank needs to be alerted in advance to schedule the deposit. As Patel noted, this makes the company an easy target for criminals.
“For other businesses, you can just walk up a block and go to the bank,” Patel said.
The bill was discussed at a hearing of the Senate Insurance and Banking Committee. Senator Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, raised a question about how state law might get around federal restrictions.
Roberts spoke to the Missourian and said the bill would lay the groundwork for medical marijuana companies to obtain financial services in the future, as he predicts federal laws surrounding marijuana will change.