LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Future medical marijuana growers and sellers in the Natural State can’t take their money to the bank, for now, that is.
After doing his homework, the state lawmaker who crafted the new cannabis laws has learned more money, more problems when it comes to doing business without banking assistance.
“Other states in the earlier times when they started off had a huge cash flow in their economy,” said Rep. Doug House, R-North Little Rock. “Warehouses full of cash, people having to pay all of their bills with cash, armored trucks backing up to courthouses to pay taxes. You’ve got to have a place to take this cash, get it off the streets.”
Without banks, Rep. House found other states with medical marijuana programs faced further issues: extortion, corruption, robberies, even murders.
“It affects all of us,” House said. “I mean, think back to the Old West days when everything was cash and the banks got robbed, the trains got robbed, and the stagecoaches got robbed.”
“So if banks don’t get on, it’ll be like the Wild, Wild West?,” reporter Jessi Turnure asked.
“It absolutely will,” House said. “There will be people carrying automatic rifles and shotguns protecting it. That’s what happened in the other states. We do not want that to happen here. We’re going to see to it that it doesn’t, one way or another.”
That’s why Rep. House is hoping two banks in Arkansas fulfill their promise of doing business with cultivation facilities and dispensaries.
“The banks have both a moral and a legal obligation to keep their depositors’ banking information confidential,” House said. “So they’re not going to advertise who their customers are and they’re not going to be advertising they’re in the marijuana banking business.”
Banking also affects future medical marijuana buyers.
“What we’re being told is Visa, Mastercard, American Express, the big four or five credit card companies, are not interested in doing business with any of the cannabis operations,” House said.
However, the two local banks could still handle their own credit or debit operations.
“That’s been known to happen in other states,” House said.
He expects the banks to start working with cultivation facilities and dispensaries around Christmas, which is when the state should award those licenses. Medical marijuana should hit the market by March.
According to the rules, both types of buildings must be discrete, with little to no advertising.
“There’s not going to be any flashing rainbows and unicorns flying around the sky, squirting butterflies out of their nose,” House said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Moving forward, House expects the state to add additional qualifying conditions to the list for patients, including psychiatric issues, and implement a THC testing program in an effort to keep medical marijuana out of the wrong hands.