The state’s top prosecutor has approved an experimental program designed to get marijuana dispensaries out of the business of having to pay their bills with suitcases and sacks full of cash.
Attorney General Mark Brnovich agreed to allow Alta to form what the company calls a “digital payment club,” with the eye specifically on marketing its service to the marijuana industry, which has no legal access to banks. Put simply, the system allows dispensaries and others in the marijuana business to convert their cash to a digital “token” and use those to pay suppliers and others willing to accept them.
And one of the first customers they hope to have is the state Department of Revenue, eliminating the current need for dispensary owners literally having to drag cash to a state office to pay their tax bills and have it counted out there.
The reason Brnovich is involved is that Alta will not be licensed by the state, at least not now.
Instead, Brnovich is using powers given to him by the Legislature to authorize exemptions from various financial laws, ranging from consumer lending to money transfer, through a “sandbox” program for companies to try out new or unusual financial programs in Arizona. Aide Ryan Anderson said what Alta is doing meets the test.
Alta owners have up to two years to prove out whether the program works, with limits in the interim on how much cash they can handle. By that time the company either needs to get a regular state license and be subject to state oversight or go out of business.
But Sarah Wessel, the company’s cofounder, said she believes that there is a need. More to the point, Wessel thinks that both marijuana dispensaries and the folks that do business with them would be willing