Emeryville Reps lobby at Capitol for Bill to Allow Cannabis Businesses To Utilize Cryptocurrency

2 mins read

While recreational Cannabis in California was legalized last year, it is currently still a classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the Federal Government. This makes federally regulated banking transactions illegal and represents a potential public safety issue. SF Assemblymember Phil Ting is hoping to address these conflicts by authoring a bill to allow Cannabis Businesses to utilize the emerging Cryptocurrency technology for payments.

The $1 billion growing industry is run almost entirely on cash and businesses often have to hire armored trucks to deliver the frequent hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax payments to state and local governments.

“It’s very risky for cannabis businesses to transport large amounts of cash in order to pay their tax bills. Too many things can go wrong. Cryptocurrency offers a solution that’s safer and cheaper for the industry,” said Assemblymember Ting, author of AB 953. “Lowering the cost to pay taxes will also help combat black market activity and encourage more businesses to get licensed.”



The City of Emeryville thinks it’s in the position to capture a significant share of the expected tax windfall of this emerging industry and representatives were on hand to express support fo the bill.

“Having to accept millions of dollars of cash for tax payments is a security concern and a significant cost for cities in California. AB 953 offers an innovative solution that cities have been waiting for,” said Ally Medina, Mayor of Emeryville for 2019. Medina is the Executive Director for Blockchain Advocacy Coalition which advocates for the advancement of regulations that utilize blockchain technology.

Nasser Azimi, who operates Ohana Cannabis Co., spoke in favor of the bill.

Medina was flanked by East Bay Therapeutics Founder Nasser Azimi who we recently profiled. East Bay Therapeutics opened Emeryville’s first recreational dispensary last summer.

Azimi provided his clear support for the bill. “The industry is in a high risk [position] because of this banking issue and I’m very pleased to see [Assemblymember Ting] take the lead on this. Cryptocurrency has evolved significantly and stablecoin has all the checks and balances to be an effective currency for our industry.”


AB 953 also addresses volatility concerns by using stable coins — virtual currencies collateralized by assets, such as the US Dollar. These currencies are pegged 1:1 to the US Dollar and will give both businesses and government agencies needed certainty to collect the exact amount of tax due. Sean Kali-Rae, President of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Association notes virtual currency provides a viable technological solution to eliminating cash and the associated risks from the industry.

There is growing excitement surrounding this pioneering way to solve tax payment and money transfer issues. “As the issuer of virtual currency that is backed 1:1 with the US Dollar, we see tax remittances from cash intensive businesses as a significant pain point we can help solve for the state of California” said Dan Schatt, Board Member of the Blockchain Advocacy Group and CEO of the Universal Protocol Alliance.

If adopted, California would be the second state to accept virtual currency for tax payments after Ohio began accepting business tax payments via virtual currency last November.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. Sure hope these new enterprises don’t start crying (and want a bailout) when cryptocurrency goes belly up.

  2. Does anyone else get the feeling that some members of our City Council are a little too friendly with the cannabis industry and particularly Mr. Azimi? Is the city actively implementing Azimi’s business plan for him?

    Getting the city to take an interest in its local businesses is nearly impossible. How is it that this one guy is getting this much attention and assistance from the city?

    • in some ways cryptocurrency can still remain decentralized but this is a questionable step by users who would support this bill if they won’t be killing it’s anonymity qualities

    • Just like amending the general plan to allow a dispensary closer to a city park, in this case the greenway. They bought the broken rack to move into.

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