California Forum

Conversation: Marijuana and banking

Special to The Sacramento Bee

Those who run nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries don’t have access to banks to pay their taxes or their employees. They have to deal in cash because federal law views marijuana as illegal, whether states have legalized medical marijuana or recreational pot. Last Sunday’s Conversation, “Awash in cash, state’s marijuana businesses can’t take it to the bank” (Forum, Feb. 14), asked: What should California do so medical marijuana dispensaries can get access to banks and the financial system?


Develop state banking system

The issues are thorny ones, at best, with numerous legal ramifications as well as political ones.

First, state law allows dispensaries to offer this drug to many who exaggerate medical symptoms when seeking doctors sympathetic to medical marijuana. The numbers of patients who proclaim to need the drug are increased beyond the scope of the true intent of medical marijuana. Thus the so-called multibillion-dollar medical marijuana industry has magnified itself out of all proportion. It needs to be severely regulated and partially curtailed, especially given that it’s illegal under federal law.

Second, for those few legitimate cases where there are no other alternatives, an autonomous financial institution should be created. It could at least serve as a place for dispensary owners to keep money in a vault, out of harm’s way. It may not have all the functions of a regular bank, but it could perhaps serve in some capacity, just as credit unions emerged as alternatives to big banks.

Susan Taubman, Loomis

From Facebook

Dustin Northrip – There needs to be some sort of legal banking system for the dispensaries so the state can be able to collect taxes. Cash businesses are very hard to regulate and tax due to human error and poor record keeping. With a banking system set up through the state, officials can closely regulate and tax all the transactions.

Rose Dilley – I find it absurd that cartels and other illicit money-making activities don’t have a banking problem and these legitimate businesses have to carry cash. Is there anything against them forming a membership only fiduciary co-op or credit union? Something where the members are vetted as legitimate legal businesses so they have a safe place to put their money and conduct transactions?

Nicole Jean – Here’s the thing, when I opened my own business, I had to pay for my business name, then I had to pay to get a business license, then I had to pay to get a business operations tax permit, etc. Oh and before I opened my business account at a bank I had to show proof that I had a legal business. Why are dispensaries being treated any different than any other business?

Kimberly Sow – Give them access or there will be robberies or lost cash that is taxable. Government is for the people, or it should be.

John Carney – Odd, banks will take gun money, but not for an organic medicine?

Russ Gaefe – Maybe California can create its own banking system independent from the Feds.