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Armored cars for pot money? It might be a solution for the cannabis industry’s banking problem, California official says

By in Press Enterprise on November 7, 2017

By Brooke Staggs

California should contract with armored car services to transport cannabis-generated tax money and study the idea of creating a public bank to serve the marijuana industry, according to State Treasurer John Chiang.

The recommendations came during a Tuesday news conference in Sacramento, where Chiang and members of his Cannabis Banking Working Group presented a 32-page report following their nearly year-long study into how to help marijuana companies access banking services.

Big banks don’t handle cannabis-related money because the drug remains illegal federally, a factor that figures to be a hurdle for the fast-growing industry. And Chiang indicated the ideas put forth Tuesday might be stop-gap solutions until federal lawmakers come up with new rules that reflect the broader push toward cannabis legalization.

“The reality is that a definitive, bullet-proof solution will remain elusive until the federal government removes cannabis from its official list of banned drugs or Congress approves safe harbor legislation protecting banks that serve cannabis businesses,” Chiang said.

“But that is not an excuse for inaction.”

Chiang — who is running for governor in 2018 — formed a working group in December 2016 to explore options for addressing the cannabis industry’s lack of access to banking services.

Though eight states have legalized recreational marijuana and 30 permit medical cannabis, the federal government still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic on par with heroin. That means major banks and credit card companies won’t do business with growers, manufacturers and dispensaries out of fear they’ll be penalized for money laundering.

While some smaller banks and credit unions are filling that gap, surveys show a majority of marijuana businesses are still forced to operate in cash. That makes them targets for crime, with tales of dispensaries being robbed and workers harmed.

During a working group meeting in Humboldt County, Chiang said the majority of industry workers […]    

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