MMJ: Mounting Monetary Policy

How long until dispensaries can take your credit card?

Arizonans legalized cannabis almost a decade ago, now. Yet patients still must withdraw cash to purchase cannabis products at dispensaries, and dispensaries still must find a way to store massive amounts of cash.

It brings to mind images of Colombian drug lords with millions of dollars in stacks of cash sitting around their villas. Clearly, that's not what dispensaries are about, so how long until the country's financial sector finally accepts the $10 billion industry?

Aside from investment benefits $10 billion would have for our economy, there are security concerns over keeping criminals from targeting that kind of money.

Intermittent solutions do arise in the way of state-sponsored banks that don't have to adhere to the strict regulations of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that typically concern banks regarding the potential for fraud and money laundering in the federally illegal, cash-heavy cannabis business.

Other businesses have popped up to address the issue as well.

The cannabis credit company Linx, founded in California, gives dispensaries a way to take credit and debit card payments outside the general credit industry. Here in Arizona, the Scottsdale company Hypur offers services to banks to keep closer tabs on cannabis companies to ward against fraud and laundering.

While these options are great in the short term, a long-term solution is required for the industry as a whole. Though national legalization doesn't seem likely any time soon, Congress still has the power to at least alleviate the financial fix in which the cannabis industry currently finds itself.

With increasing public approval surrounding legal cannabis, and more states legalizing adult-use and medicinal programs every year, lawmakers have a responsibility to step up and protect the cannabis companies in their states. In February, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing to discuss the financial challenges of the cannabis industry. In March, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act.

The House Financial Services Committee voted 45-15 to send the bill to the floor, March 28. Currently, the bill has 158 cosponsors, which includes only 14 Republicans.

Perlmutter submitted a similar bill last year, which garnered 95 cosponsors, including 13 Republicans. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) introduced a companion bill in the senate, with several big-name Democrats signing on.

Other groups have voiced concerns for the situation, such as 19 state attorneys general who called for banking regulation for legal cannabis in January 2018.

The Credit Union National Association, the Independent Community of Bankers of America and the American Bankers Association have also supported regulation to allow cannabis companies access to banking services.

Last week, presidents of Federal Reserve Banks in Richmond, Kansas City and Atlanta supported looking for solutions to the banking issues the growing divide between state and federal cannabis laws creates.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called for resolution around the issue as well.

The House can vote on Perlmutter's bill any time.

With mounting support for the industry, Congress should not only consider their constituents, but the resulting security and opportunity that allowing cannabis companies to store their funds in banks would provide.

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