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Missouri considers banning medical cannabis businesses from paying taxes in cash

Posted at 10:10 PM, Nov 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-12 23:42:16-05

NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s budding medical marijuana industry is expected to create 4,000 jobs and bring in more than $500 million. It's a lot of green, but business owners might not be able to pay the taxman in cash.

"In the marijuana industry that still can be a problem because access to banking is one of the more difficult things," Jack Cardetti, spokesperson for the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said.

If approved, a proposal from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS), which oversees the medical cannabis program, would require that businesses make payments “via any payment method normally acceptable to those agencies other than cash.”

Those seeking a job in Missouri's new medical marijuana industry packed a North Kansas City event space Tuesday night.

"This rule is a pretty cut and dry rule,” Cardetti said. “You can't pay your taxes and fees despite being a legal business and cash being a legal tender.”

Some believe the move will put small companies at a disadvantage.

"Let's face it, there are huge players coming into this market and all of us that are, shall I say, more modestly funded are concerned about those big players," Sherry DeJanes, majority holder of Emerald Garden, said.

Joe Leonard owns Bee Valley Farms in Southeast Missouri and hasn't found a bank to work with.

"There are a few institutions that will do business with cannabis companies, but they are few and far between,” Leonard said, “and most of them have a limit on how many businesses they'll take on.”

DHSS spokesperson Lisa Cox provided the following statement to 41 Action News:

We know that large amounts of cash-handling will create challenges for state agencies and may create safety issues for medical marijuana facility employees. As we have done with all of our rules, we have put this out for public comment in order to hear from the public whether they have concerns with this proposal and, if so, what they are. The emergency rule has not been filed, and we will consider all comments we receive before determining whether to file it.

Cox did not provide a timeline for when the decision would be made.

"We will review all feedback received and evaluate further if needed," Cox said via email.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would ban regulators from penalizing banks that work with legal and licensed marijuana businesses.

Supporters said the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (H.R. 1595), also known as the SAFE Banking Act, gives businesses a safer spot to store money and helps track payroll and taxes.

The House passed the bill in September. It's now in the U.S. Senate.