OKLAHOMA CITY - Since medical marijuana started to be sold in Oklahoma, dispensary owners have been looking for a way to better protect their money, customers and employees. There is now federal legislation in the US Senate that could offer solutions to some of their problems.
"So, anyone who owns a dispensary has to deal with cash. It's very dangerous," said Kent Malave.
Malave, an Edmond medical marijuana dispensary owner, is talking about one of the biggest issues facing the new industry. Since marijuana is still technically illegal on the federal level, banks that are federally insured do not want to risk their status. So right now, all transactions in the business must be made with greenbacks.
"It means they have to carry around big sums of cash, so any bad apple that thinks, Hey, I want to get my hands on it, knows they are going to have a lot of cash," said Oklahoma US Representative Kendra Horn.
Horn is co-sponsor of the Safe Banking Act. It's a bill that just passed through the US House and would grant legal marijuana businesses access to banking.
"I think it’s an example of good common sense bipartisan legislation," said Horn.
Horn says it will protect employees and customers by allowing the use of credit cards. Owners say it prevents them from having to use safety deposit boxes for surplus cash and having to hand huge rolls of bills to state employees to pay their taxes. She says it will also help to track finances and make sure taxes are being paid properly.
"This is a growing industry and we want to make sure that all of those taxpayer dollars are coming back into the coffers," said Horn.
She says another plus is that it allows dispensary owners to take out loans.
"One of the things about being able to open a line of credit is that it opens up to more different kinds of people. It widens the field of who can get into and participate in the industry," said Horn
"It’s the only way you are going to take it to the next level for it to be funded in a proper way," said Malave.
The bill passed the House by more than a 3 to 1 margin. Opponents say it will facilitate the spread of marijuana, but Horn disagrees. She says it doesn't change laws about marijuana itself, it just opens up banking in the 33 states that currently have some form of legal marijuana.
"This bill respects the states' rights and I think that’s important," said Horn.
Click here to read more about the Safe Banking Act. you can click on this link.