A spokesman for the Cannabis Control Commission, which oversees the state’s marijuana industry, said in a statement, “The Cannabis Control Commission is aware of the administrative, compliance, and public safety challenges that other states have faced in the absence of traditional banking institutions within the cannabis marketplace. We are working collaboratively with state banking and credit union associations as well as relevant sister state government agencies to explore solutions and stand up a safe, professionally managed industry.”
In today’s climate, almost no other industry does a significant amount of business in cash.
But the marijuana industry is unique. Marijuana remains illegal federally, which means federally chartered banks cannot accept marijuana money. Credit card companies also will not provide services for marijuana purchases.
Today, only one bank – Century Bank in Medford – is known to do business with Massachusetts’ medical marijuana companies. People can pay for medical marijuana with debit cards. Both the bank and the debit cards charge large fees.
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Jon Skarin, senior vice president of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, said all banks are subject to federal law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decision to rescind Obama-era protections for businesses and individuals complying with state marijuana laws added to banks’ hesitance to get involved with the marijuana industry.
The problem is likely to get worse for the recreational side of the business, since certain federal protections that are in place for medical marijuana do not exist for recreational marijuana. Skarin said the banking industry would prefer that these businesses operate within the traditional banking system, but that is difficult.