Nevada officials are launching the nation’s first banking system for the booming cannabis industry, whose dispensaries increasingly are targeted for burglaries and robberies for the hundreds of thousands of dollars of cash they keep on hand to pay employees, taxes and rent.
Drawing inspiration from their gaming sector, state officials will allow marijuana businesses to deal in electronic tokens and chips.
“We really want to deal with the public safety issue. That much cash in the hands of that many people, it’s just dangerous. It’s an attractive target,” said Nevada state Treasurer Zach Conine, who pushed for the program.
Nevada cannabis businesses operate on a cash-only basis because banks and other financial institutions have refused to do business with them, citing federal laws against the sale, possession and distribution of the Schedule 1 drug.
Yet, with 33 states and the District of Columbia having legalized pot for medicinal and recreational use, the cannabis market is expected to see $12 billion in sales this year and eventually as much as $30 billion annually, according to industry estimates.