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Dispensaries Are Literally Laundering Money In California

For workers at one of California's tax collecting agencies in Sacramento, "cash day" turns an ordinary workday into something like a famous scene from from the movie Blow:

Except nothing shady is going on at the tax offices. "Cash day" refers to specific dates in which the California's taxation office - the Board of Equalization, or BOE - allows California's cash-only businesses, which are mainly medical marijuana dispensaries, to pay their quarterly sales tax bills.

Because cannabis is still prohibited federally, most banks avoid doing business with the marijuana industry - even in states that have legalized medical or recreational use. That means dispensaries can't use checks or credit cards for their transactions.

But they still have to pay taxes. So the BOE has to brace themselves for a flood of hard currency. Many payments are so large that depositors can't stuff them into envelopes and slide them through the slots under teller windows. Staff have to leave their safe rooms in order to collect the money, which can range from $30,000 to $150,000 or more.

The smell of money

But one of the least expected effects is the smell. According to The Guardian's Anita Chabria - who did an on-the-scene report - the Sacramento branch "reeks of marijuana" on cash day because "the smell of their [the dispensaries'] inventory clings to everything."

Some dispensaries have tried to avoid causing a "nose complaint" while paying their bills, according to Chabria.

"Sometimes, instead of the aroma of cannabis, the room smells strongly of fabric softener because some depositors 'wash' the money in a dryer before coming in."

It's a claim that seemed so strange, we had to verify it. So we reached out to Venus Stromberg of the BOE's public affairs office. She verified that The Guardian's account was accurate. So, yes, some dispensaries are in fact laundering their bills legally. Check out the other details of cash day in the full article.

And if you'd like to help out tax collectors tired of receiving "laundered money," and medical marijuana businesses that need better access to banking services, call your congress representatives and ask them to support the Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act.

h/t The Guardian


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