Marijuana is seen here at a dispensary in an undated image. 

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Nevada’s cannabis industry has been forced to deal in cash, but a new state law may bring some relief to Las Vegas dispensaries.

Because marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, most banks will not do business with dispensaries. Soon the state plans to launch a first-of-its-kind pilot program to fix the problem.

“I’ve seen employees in the cannabis industry with $1,000, $2,000 in their wallet,” cannabis consultant Jason Sturtsman said.

Dispensaries have to handle millions of dollars in cash to pay employees and to pay the bills.

“I don’t think it’s a great idea,” customer Tim O’Toole said. “Everybody’s walking around with pockets full of cash and they’re vulnerable.”

“When you have massive amounts of cash, it requires an extensive amount of security beyond cameras,” Sturtsman added.

Nevada State Treasurer Zach Conine pushed for a voluntary pilot program.

“We really want to deal with the public safety issue,” he said. “That much cash in the hands of that many people, it’s just dangerous. It’s an attractive target.”

Instead of cash, dispensaries could use electronic tokens to pay companies that join the program.

“Utility providers, landlords, hopefully payroll companies take part,” Conine said. “So instead of showing up with $100,000 at a state building to pay their taxes, they can transmit 100,000 worth of tokens electronically and then pay their bill.”

Those tokens could be exchanged within the program then redeemed through the state for cash or a check.

Conine said he hopes dispensary employees could get paid in a similar way.

“Instead of giving them cash, they pay the payroll company in tokens,” he explained. “The payroll company gets that redeemed and then cuts a check to employees.”

Conine said customers would still need to pay at dispensaries in cash. But he believes the program could expand to solve that problem too.

“We’ve talked to dozens of dispensary, cultivation facilities, production partners, and we think we’ll have plenty of takers for the first round of the trial,” he said.

Conine said the state will have a few pilot programs running at the same time. It does not cost taxpayers anything.

From there, the state can fine tune a program that is more cost effective, efficient and safe for dispensaries.

The three-year pilot program will kick off around July 2020.

Copyright 2019 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved

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