DENVER — Every month, Jamie Perino hires a security detail to come to her three recreational marijuana dispensaries. They stop by, collect thousands of dollars in cash and head out to deliver the money to the state, county and city.
Perino, the CEO of Euflora dispensaries, said she can’t find a bank that will work with her. She pays her employees and her landlord in cash. She can only accept cash from customers. She must even pay her taxes in cash.
“I can’t bank my money,” she said. “It’s really frustrating. … When I go to pay my federal taxes, you get a 10 percent penalty for paying in cash, but we can’t have a bank account. So it’s just a big Catch-22.”
Thousands of owners of legal marijuana businesses in states throughout the country face the same dilemma. With banks reluctant to take on the risk and responsibilities associated with accepting money earned from a substance that’s still illegal under federal law, banking has become a rare luxury in the marijuana industry.
As marijuana becomes legal in more states for both medical and recreational use, the vast majority of banking institutions in the U.S. sit on the sidelines, bypassing billions in business. Banks say the risks are too many and their resources too few. Regulations force bankers to act as police, they say, responsible for making sure their customers comply with the law.
By Clarissa Cooper & Michael Bodley
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