Banking Remains a Hurdle for Marijuana Dispensaries | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Banking Remains a Hurdle for Marijuana Dispensaries

Instead of electronic deposits, pot sellers are forced to carry bags of money to the supermarkets to buy money orders.


Just one more headache in running a business.
Photo via

By Paul Gaita


| Share

While marijuana legalization advocates cheer recent developments in Colorado and New York, the businesses charged with distributing medical marijuana to patients still face significant opposition from the banking industry. The problem: federal law prohibits banks from handling the proceeds from illegal activities, and marijuana remains a Schedule I drug – on par with heroin and ecstasy – thanks to the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

Because of marijuana’s continued federal status, banks and credit card companies are hesitant to provide even the most basic services to medical marijuana merchants for fear of massive fines levied by federal regulators and law enforcement. As a result, dispensaries and other marijuana outlets have been forced to transport large sums of money in paper shopping bags to supermarkets in order to buy money orders, use personal bank accounts to manage their income, and provide elaborate security systems and other arrangements to ward off robberies while also contending with raids and shutdowns by local and federal law enforcement.

A mixed message regarding the Obama administration’s stance on marijuana was issued by the U.S. Department of Justice in an August 29, 2013 memo to all United States Attorneys. While the memo indicated that the Department would not crack down on legal marijuana as long as several regulatory measures were strictly enforced – like preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors – it failed to address the situation with banks, leaving business owners, legislators, and banking officials in the dark. After six members of Colorado’s congressional delegation sent a letter to the Treasury and Justice Department requesting clear-cut guidelines on how banks can legally handle the medical and recreational marijuana industry, a glimmer of resolution was promised by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which plans to garner opinions on the matter from Treasury and Justice Department officials. Despite this effort, specific recommendations for formal guidelines have yet to be produced.

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
Sober Living
Suboxone: Trading One Prison Cell for Another

Suboxone seemed like a get-out-of-jail-free card, the answer to my opiate addiction. Instead, I had a new ten-year addiction, complete with thinning hair and lost motivation.

The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 


This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv