The San Diego Union-Tribune

California cannabis bank: Hurry up and set it up

January 29, 2018

By The Editorial Board

One month into California’s recreational marijuana experiment, state leaders must show much more of a sense of urgency about the need to give what’s expected to be a $7 billion annual industry access to banking services. Nearly all banks that are subject to federal regulation decline pot shops’ and pot growers’ business because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That’s led to the present spectacle of dispensary managers lugging tens of thousands of dollars in cash to state tax offices — an invitation to an epidemic of armed robberies.

Last week, state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, introduced Senate Bill 930, which would “state the intent of the Legislature” to establish a state-chartered bank that could be used by the cannabis industry. Lawmakers should hurry up and approve the bill. They should sync their efforts with state Treasurer John Chiang, who is holding a news conference Tuesday to detail his next step toward the same end, based on recommendations made in November by the Cannabis Banking Working Group, a group of marijuana industry operators, financial regulators and tax and public safety officials assembled by the treasurer to respond to what he calls the “cannabis banking dilemma.”

Proposition 64 — which made the sale of recreational marijuana legal in California starting this month — was adopted in November 2016, so residents would be right to wonder why Hertzberg and Chiang took so long. But better late then never. They should work together — and quickly — before a cannabis cash courier is robbed, or worse, killed.

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