As COVID-19 cases continue to climb, people are staying home, limiting trips outside the house except for essential business. For millions of Americans, those essential trips include visits to cannabis dispensaries. Despite its federal status, cannabis has been deemed essential in most states where it is legal for medical or adult use.
Yet the cannabis industry and those that it serves are disadvantaged by federal laws, which now, more than ever, have introduced avoidable risk and danger into the legal cannabis market. Federal lawmakers must act quickly to address these issues.
Currently, under federal law, cannabis businesses that comply with state laws are blocked from access to the most basic banking services, such as holding checking accounts or accepting credit card payments. This means companies like mine, a multistate cannabis company, conduct all our sales in cash. In this COVID-19 environment, there are two main risks associated with operating in physical currency.
First, cash itself is “dirty” to handle. As other essential businesses implement contactless payments and protocols to limit cash transactions in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus, the cannabis industry cannot, exposing employees and customers to additional and unnecessary risk.
The cruel irony is the cannabis industry serves many immunocompromised persons — medical cannabis is often prescribed to patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis and other comorbidities to manage chronic pain. We should be able to provide these people with the option to take the handling of money out of the equation for the safety of all involved.
Second, cash puts cannabis workers, law enforcement, patients and customers at risk. Just as other essential businesses have in the past weeks, cannabis companies have adapted to offer increased curbside pickup and delivery options in order to minimize human contact. In one notable case, the state of Nevada restricted all cannabis sales to delivery-only. This