Dec 262012

By Linda Kor
As counties and cities in the state make decisions to either allow or seek methods to avoid having medi-cal marijuana dispensaries in their jurisdictions, another issue has arisen for dispensary operators. State dis-pensary operators are finding out that banking institutions and credit unions are not willing to provide check-ing accounts and credit card machines for their facilities, forcing dispensaries to operate on a cash-only basis.
The problem is that even though medical marijuana is legal in Arizona, it is illegal under federal law. As a result, federally insured banking institutions become leery about involving themselves with the federally banned industry.
Arizona isn’t the first medical-marijuana voter approved state to face such an issue. In February, Colorado lawmakers considered, and rejected, a proposed bill setting up a state-run special cooperative banking institution. Lawmakers from both parties worried that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, states should not step in to help dispensaries and growers store and borrow money.
In California, dispensary owners seeking to bypass banking establishments fared no better as last June the Internal Revenue Service seized bank accounts containing more than $870,000 as part of a federal probe into alleged money laundering involving a Sacramento marijuana dispensary.
The concern over a cash-only business is that it could present potential security risks for dispensaries, which will likely need to hire additional security personnel to transport funds. Patients could also be at risk since transactions will require that they have cash on-hand to pay for their medication.
On a local note, Dixon Oates and David Berkovits were approved for a special use permit by the City of Winslow’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week. This approval gives them the paperwork required by the Arizona Department of Health Services to move forward with the opening of The Medicine Room, their medical marijuana dispensary.