Does Oklahoma Have the Answer to Cannabis Banking?
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Does Oklahoma Have the Answer to Cannabis Banking?

House lawmakers passed a bill that would utilize virtual currency as a means to provide the state’s medical cannabis industry safe and legal banking.

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March 16, 2022

Oklahoma lawmakers advanced a bill that aims to create a payment tracking ecosystem, and they intend to test it out on their state’s medical cannabis industry.

House Bill 3279, the Oklahoma Distributed Ledger Technology Assets Offering Act, aims to authorize the state to develop and use “hack-resistant” technologies to open the door for convertible virtual currency transactions.  

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Justin Humphrey, a Republican who chairs the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, drew bipartisan support with House members voting, 75-11, to pass it on March. 15.

The bill states, “This act shall first be implemented for the lawful regulation of the medical marijuana industry so long as the commodity is lawfully permitted for use in the state of Oklahoma.”

One of several anticipated benefits of a newly established payment tracking ecosystem listed in the bill includes “enhancing the stability” of any legal market by using a cashless, electronic fund transfer of digital assets for transactions to maximize “micropayment capabilities” for the business community.

Humphrey told CBS-affiliate News 9 that his bill would bring medical cannabis banking into the 21st century for legal Oklahoma operators.

“We’re not looking at taxing more. We’re not looking at raising fees more,” he said. “We’re looking at a way to help control their industry to make sure the legal people have a means to pay money and the illegal people can’t operate.”  

While some cannabis businesses utilize local and regional banking in the U.S., options are limited with the plant still illegal under federal law. But, by and large, the cannabis industry operates in cash without federal clarity providing safe harbor to financial institutions servicing cannabis clients.

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Humphrey suggested his legislation could be an answer in the interim.

Laying out several provisions for the implementation of an Oklahoma payment tracking ecosystem, H.B. 3279 stipulates that any such ecosystem must be designed to be autonomous. In addition, the measure provides for the regulation of convertible virtual currency, including a requirement that any such currency must be designed to be transferred or converted at the face value of $1, according to the bill’s summary.

The bill would also allow customers to acquire and transfer any fiat currencies, lawful cryptocurrencies, digital assets, convertible virtual currency, or distributed ledger technology assets from one form of value to the other as part of a transaction.

Humphrey said the blueprint of his legislation is derived from cryptocurrency, News 9 reported.

“This is based on the real dollar, we just stole their method that they were using,” he said. “Kind of like the ideal of a credit card, so if you swipe a credit card it is a digital process.”

The legislation now heads to the state Senate for possible consideration.