Emerging Issues in Security

Feds Still Say No to Marijuana Dispensary Bank Accounts

Since marijuana is still categorized and scheduled as a dangerous drug per the federal government, dispensary owners and operators are still forbidden by federal banking laws from opening business bank accounts.

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With legal marijuana sales poised to be a $7 billion business in the coming years, the discussion continues as to how to allow U.S. banks to accept the plethora of cash deposits coming from the scores of marijuana shops that have set up in states like Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Washington, D.C.; and most recently, in California, which will allow pot stores to operate starting in January 2018.

Since banks and credit unions are prohibited from taking what the federal government perceives as “ill-gotten gains” from a drug that is still illegal by federal standards, this has created a cash management crunch for the stores. Banks don’t want to be targeted for what the federal government sees as money laundering for drug dealers, so this leaves shop owners and operators with too much cash on their premises. Despite some stores having state-of-the-art security cameras, armed security officers, and industrial-sized safes and vaults, the number of robberies, store takeover invasions, and shootouts (often because street gangs and organized crime members know how much cash is on hand) continues to increase at alarming rates. Because some store operators or employees choose to take the store cash home with them, this has led to the fear of carjackings or home invasion-style robberies, which have happened after the robbers have followed employees home, knowing their large duffel bag is often stuffed with cash.

Christian Hageseth, founder and CEO of Green Man Cannabis, which operates two retail marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Colorado, says in a Business Insider video clip from last year that his two locations do $650,000 per month. His all-cash businesses have about $1 million in merchandise in the shops, including the fixtures, marijuana, and marijuana products like edibles, vaporizer products, and cannabis oils. While Hageseth says his stores have been burglarized eight times, he and his store employees have not been targeted as yet by robbers, although it is a significant concern for him.

A recent article in The New York Post followed the owner of a Los Angeles-based marijuana store as he nervously drove $40,000 in cash to the Los Angeles City Hall to pay his monthly tax bill. Since the City gets 6% of his monthly revenues, estimated at over $333,000 per month, his trip to downtown Los Angeles, alone and with a large bag of cash, is always a perilous one.