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What nervous bankers mean for marijuana in Illinois

Marijuana is becoming more and more legal nationwide. Decriminalization laws are reducing the toll minor drug offences are taking on jails and prisons; medical marijuana is being prescribed by doctors across much of the country; and the entire West coast, among other states, has legalized cannabis for recreational use. Despite this, recent movement by banks may change Illinois’ future with the drug.

The marijuana trade has pulled in considerable revenue since becoming legal in many states. Despite being legal for prescribed medical use in Illinois, some banks are reluctant to work with the revenue cannabis generates, which could lead to major upsets to marijuana sales in our state.

Marijuana and banking

According to Chicago Tonight, Bank of Springfield, the bank which managed 70 percent of all legal marijuana banking in Illinois, announced that it would no longer be working in the cannabis trade.

“Any time you have a program like this it’s relatively unique in that it operates in direct contradiction to a known federal law,” said Bob Morgan, former director of the Illinois Medical Cannabis Program. “Everyone knows that medical cannabis is still a violation of federal law even if it’s allowed under state law. So the Bank of Springfield moved into servicing this industry knowing the situation, but I understand constantly looking at the risk and the considerations of whether or not to service the industry.”

Effect on the business

With Bank of Springfield announcing their departure, dispensaries are now hastily looking for banks or other institutions to hold their profits. Marijuana is a cash-only business in Illinois, and not having a safe repository for their revenue is dangerous on a few fronts for distributors. In addition to not having a physically safe location to keep their money, businesses also could be left with no way to invest their earnings.

If they are unable to find a financial institution to safeguard their assets, many dispensaries may find themselves shutting their doors for good. There are over 50 dispensaries around Illinois as of 2015, this potential loss of industry could have real impact on local economies. Each dispensary that closes would also deny people who are legally prescribed medical marijuana of a place to fill their prescriptions.

Over 20,000 people in Illinois are ID holding medical marijuana patients who use cannabis to treat a host of conditions, including PTSD, muscular dystrophy, severe pain and traumatic brain injury. It is currently unclear what the potential closure of their local dispensary could mean for them and their issues.

Lawmakers continue to plan and speak on the future of medical and recreational marijuana in Illinois. Only the future will tell how marijuana will land in our state.

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