Florida’s top financial regulator warns about “duffle bags of cash”

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Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis wants Donald Trump to do something about duffle bags stuffed with millions in cash. The bags, he says, are being transported all over the state due to the state’s growing medical-marijuana industry.

It’s a serious problem, said Patronis, a Republican who oversees the state’s banking industry. He explains it in a letter to the president.

“We are now facing a tremendous safety threat as most dispensaries operating in our state are doing so as cash-only businesses. Most Florida banks and credit unions will not allow deposits from medical marijuana businesses because of the lack of federal clarity on cannabis banking,” Patronis wrote.

“This leads to medical marijuana dispensaries handling this problem in an antiquated and dangerous manner by transporting millions of dollars in duffle bags of cash and even driving the cash endlessly around in trucks,” he said.

Patronis said “the size and staggering growth of the medical marijuana industry, paired with limited regulated banking options, puts patients and employees in dangerous situations as potential targets for criminal activity.”

And he said the problem underscores “the urgent need for federal regulatory guidelines around the banking of state-authorized medical marijuana businesses.”

Patronis noted that William Barr, Trump’s nominee for U.S. attorney general, recently testified that federal legislation on marijuana businesses is the “right way to resolve” the issue.

But Patronis warned that may take a lot of time and be too late.

“In the meantime, these businesses are easy targets for criminals and criminal activity. I am asking you to consider administrative action in the interim to offer clear guidance to the financial services community on how they can follow our existing state laws without risk of penalty from federal regulators,” Patronis told Trump.

“We must reassure financial institutions that there will NOT be retribution for servicing businesses that act within the state’s legal framework,” he added. “I am asking that the federal government step in to help now, before an incident happens and we are instead in the sad position of responding after the fact.”

 

Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.

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