Arizona cannabis dispensaries look to new financial service for transactions

Tuesday is the first legal 4/20 in the state of Arizona, a day where using cannabis is typically celebrated, but there are still hiccups in how marijuana is being bought in the state.

A brand new start-up in Arizona is solving a banking problem the cannabis industry has faced as many banks don't provide financial services to dispensaries.

Arizona's cannabis industry is already bringing in millions of dollars to the state after its passing in the 2020 election. Experts are expecting those numbers to skyrocket past a billion dollars.

"The trajectory of the industry is on an upward slope, but with the increase in business, creates new challenges for dispensaries in terms of how they handle their earnings," says Sam Richard, executive director of Arizona Dispensaries Association.

Rami Sweis, founder of Oasis Cannabis, says, "You have issues with cash handling that really have slowed us down for many years."

Since several banks do not provide financial services to dispensaries, forcing them to carry around a lot of cash which can be dangerous and time-consuming.

"Many of our folks that operate in the industry are more concerned with safety of employees than folks when they have cash in their vehicles, not necessarily the cannabis," Sweis says.

That's why Sarah Wessel created Alta, a financial service for Arizona dispensaries.

"We have built our own digital asset to replace cash. Sending a payment is as easy as sending a text message with Alta," she explains.

The way it works is dispensaries can request an armored car to pick up the cash, then the business will receive Alta tokens. They can convert the tokens back to dollars.

This is something dispensary owners say will allow them to focus on their product without the extra stress of security.

The House passed the SAFE Banking Act on April 19 with the hopes to allow banks, dispensaries and growers to work together. It still needs to be passed by the Senate.

Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2021