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Medical marijuana businesses in the United States struggle to find banks that will provide financial services due to marijuana being a federally prohibited controlled substance.

Senate Bill 489, if passed, would allow Missouri banks to provide financial services to medical marijuana companies. State Sen. Steven Roberts, D-St. Louis, is the sponsor of the bill that would allow the businesses to receive loans, make deposits and invest funds.

While the bill wouldn’t be able to bypass federal law, Roberts said the federal marijuana restrictions aren’t being followed anyway with the licensing of medical marijuana dispensaries. He mentioned that some prosecutors in cities aren’t enforcing federal marijuana laws.

Many of Missouri’s medical marijuana businesses are forced to operate as cash-only facilities due to the difficulty in securing financial services. Roberts said this creates a public safety issue for the business owners and employees, while adding a burden on the business.

Jay Patel, founder and CEO of Green Releaf Dispensary, testified in support of the bill. He said that about four banks in Missouri provide financial services to medical marijuana businesses, and Green Releaf Dispensary is fortunate to receive financial services from one of the banks.

With 192 medical marijuana dispensaries licensed in Missouri, Patel said there are not enough banks to provide services for the businesses.

After the hearing, Patel spoke about the public safety concerns that are associated with having a bank that is hours away from the business. He said his business has to hold its money at the business or a remote location before taking it to the bank. With several locations for his business, Patel said that deposits can sometimes be up to $400,000. With such large deposits, the bank has to be alerted in advance to plan the deposit. As Patel noted, this makes the business an easy target for criminals.

“For other businesses, you can just go a block away and go to the bank,” Patel said.

The bill was discussed during a Senate Committe on Insurance and Banking hearing. Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, raised a question about how state law could get around federal restrictions.

Roberts talked to the Missourian and said the bill would lay the groundwork for medical marijuana businesses to gain financial services in the future because he anticipates the federal laws surrounding marijuana will change.

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