Marijuana dispensaries hope to gain access to thrift banks

LAS VEGAS - A little less than a month after recreational marijuana went on sale, criminals have put the businesses on their radar.  According to police, the Blackjack Dispensary was hit by robbers over the weekend.

The suspects used a crow bar to force their way in, but an officer caught them in the act and fired his gun at them.

The robbery happened Sunday morning near Western Avenue and Oakey Boulevard.

According to officers, pot facilities are often prone to burglaries and robberies because it's an all-cash industry.

In fact, there's a constant flow of customers that walk in and out of dispensaries.

Medizin Dispensary says it has tight security inside and outside of the facility.

"I think we just really want our patients and customers to know that we really take their safety very seriously," said Tanya Lupien, the VP of Sales and Marketing at Medzin Dispensary.

Especially since the dispensary was burglarized just a few months ago, Lupien said.  Lupien says she believes the criminals were after cash.

"Not having to deal on a cash basis day to day would be very helpful; it would be helpful to be able to use debit or credit cards," said Lupien.

But dispensaries can't use a credit or debit card because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, and major banks are federally regulated.

However, in 2015, state leaders approved Assembly Bill 480 allowing so-called thrift banks to provide services to marijuana businesses.

"We were looking for a solution to the fact that marijuana companies could not bank and so we created what we thought was a law that would allow state banks to do marijuana businesses," said State Senator Tick Segerblom, District 3.

Sen. Segerblom says the thrift banks are similar to credit unions, but instead of requiring a deposit for insurance from the federal government, the state law says it can be obtained through a private carrier.
   
Just one problem, it's been two years since legislative was approved and none of them are up and running.

"It turns out that these banks are difficult to make, they take a lot of investment," State Sen. Segerblom said.  "They have to have people that have people with experience around them."

Meantime, the marijuana cash flow does not appear to be slowing down.  The state of Nevada is predicting $700 million in recreational pot sales during the first two years.

"I think most of the dispensaries are doing what they can to have as little cash on site," Lupien said.


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