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Jan 12, 2016 12:00 AM

NH1 News Investigates: Why 1st NH medical marijuana dispensary will probably be cash-only


DOVER - New Hampshire's first medical marijuana dispensary is slated to open this month in Dover.

“Temescal Wellness” has another location in Lebanon.

But like most dispensaries, the owners will probably be forced to accept only cash because banks and financial institutions are hesitant about working with businesses selling marijuana.

NH1 News traveled to Auburn, Maine, to see how dispensary owners in our neighboring state are navigating this new frontier. Visiting a dispensary called “Remedy Compassion Center,” we spoke with the owner, Tim Smale, about his dealings with banks.

“The federal government considers my activities to be money laundering," he said. "We can’t take credit cards, and we can’t take debit cards."

Since opening his dispensary five years ago, Smale has been bounced around from one bank to another.

The problems started shortly after he opened his doors for business.

“Not too far in I got a letter, and they said they were going to close my account," he said. "I switched to another bank.”

After several more rejection letters, he’s now working with his fifth bank.

Maine is among 23 states which allow the sale of medical marijuana.

However, the federal government still treats marijuana as an illegal, prohibited substance. Banks and credit unions fear being charged with federal money laundering penalties for handling cash derived from marijuana businesses.

The president of the New Hampshire Bankers Association, Christiana Thornton, says she knows of no local financial institutions working with marijuana dispensaries.

“Because it’s a federal crime, it would be considered money laundering under the Bank Secrecy Act,” said Thornton.

The required paperwork for dealing with marijuana dispensaries is burdensome. Because there has been little guidance from federal banking regulators, bankers fear they could unwittingly become involved in criminal activity.

“How do you know it’s all legal activity and not a cover for illegal activity,” said Thornton.

For now, marijuana dispensaries will be doing they bill paying, customer transactions, and payroll – in cash.


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