Orlando-based First Green Bank is giving new meaning to its name by offering financial services to cannabis businesses. It appears to be the first financial institution in Florida to serve the state’s medical cannabis industry.
While most major US banks have steered clear of cannabis companies due to convoluted rules around working with the still-federally-illegal industry, First Green Bank has more than just a commercial connection to cannabis. Founder Ken La Roe credits medical marijuana with helping his wife after suffered a serious bicycle crash that left her with traumatic brain injuries and a seizure disorder, according to the Orlando Business Journal.
A friend suggested medical marijuana. The results were stunning. “In six months [she] was able to completely get off the seizure medication, and six months later it completely cured her seizures,” Ken La Roe told Fox 35 Orlando.
La Roe told reporters he believes his bank is the first in Florida to offer banking services to cannabis businesses. While some states, such as Washington, have issued guidance on how local financial organizations can work with the cannabis industry, Florida currently lacks guidelines around how banks should go about doing business with dispensaries.
“There is no rule or law because it’s federally illegal,” La Roe said.
As La Roe explained to the Orlando Business Journal, First Green Bank won’t actually touch any of the cash from dispensaries.
“We don’t ever touch the cash or allow dispensaries to deposit it,” said. “We require them to use the armored car service we have vetted to go to the dispensaries.”
The armored trucks pick up the cash directly from dispensaries, then transport it to the nearest Federal Reserve location, La Roe explained. First Green Bank also tracks inventory from seed to sale, as it’s the bank’s responsibility to make sure all the transactions are above board.
The process hasn’t been easy. According to news reports, it’s taken La Roe and First Green Bank around two years to implement this system. Today, First Green Bank serves six of the seven licensees in Florida.
So far, First Green Bank has processed nearly $30 million dollars in deposits from cannabis companies. That’s about 6% of the bank’s $479.38 million in total deposits from all customers during 2016.