Kyle Hensley always wanted to open his own business — he just didn’t think it would be a medical marijuana dispensary at first.
“Initially I was hoping to open a grill with some friends and that did not work out,” he says.
After that initial plan fell through, the pieces for a solid back-up plan seemed to fall into place.
Oklahoma voters approved State Question 788, legalizing the use and sale of medical marijuana.
Kyle found the perfect location for a dispensary, 310 W Main St. He jumped at the chance.
“There was a pretty fast land run to get out there and get all the good spots,” Kyle explains. “This building and the location in town was kind of like a diamond in the rough.”
But finding a good location was just the first step. As Oklahoma continues to build the economic infrastructure around medical marijuana, some cannabis business owners are having to climb uphill to get their businesses off the ground.
One major struggle is the limited number of banks that are able to handle cannabis banking, due to heavy federal regulations.
That means Oklahoma cannabis business owners like Kyle have had to do business strictly with cash for years. This is not only inconvenient, Kyle explains, but can also be dangerous.
“Without a bank, you have the security risk of having so much cash onsite in a safe,” he says. “It just makes you nervous, doing all your day-to-day business, having people come and go, buying and selling product, knowing that you have so much cash on hand. It's not safe for anybody.”
Blue Sky Bank is now offering cannabis banking, which includes armored cash transport services through Pay Cash Group, for this reason. Its dedication to serving Oklahoma’s entrepreneurs means it’s committed to cannabis business owners’ safety, too.
Business owners can now sign up for a Canna-Direct Account, a commercial banking account for cannabis-related, plant-touching businesses.
Blue Sky Bank Canna-Direct customers can now enjoy features like debit cards and checks, online business banking, wire payments, mobile deposit, and the mobile business banking app — services that weren’t available to most Oklahoma cannabis entrepreneurs before.
Kyle worked with Deborah Lin, Blue Sky Bank Assistant Vice President and Cannabis-Related Banking Lead, to open a Canna-Direct Account in Summer 2021.
“We have an account open right now,” he says, “and so we've been making those cash deposits and we feel good about it. They're safe in the bank and they're not here where if there was an incident, it's good to know that it's in the bank and stuff.”
Kyle says the biggest benefit has been the freedom to make digital transactions like payments to vendors and the IRS, instead of relying on cash.
“It's better to have digital banking than it is to do things cash all the time,” he explains.
But the emotional benefits might even outweigh the operational benefits.
“You sleep better at night,” Kyle says. “Knowing that you have banking access helps you sleep better at night. Feeling like if something does happen in the middle of the night, when you wake up, it's going to be okay. It's not going to be all gone.”
Kyle says, now that he has a relationship with Blue Sky Bank, he feels like his business is more legitimate.
“It feels like when you're denied banking access, that they're sending that message that you're not legitimate even though you are paying taxes and following all the laws,” Kyle says. “You feel like you're doing everything right.”
There are several banks in Oklahoma that currently offer cannabis banking services. But what sets Blue Sky Bank apart, Kyle says, is the customer service and the expertise.
Blue Sky Bank’s cannabis banking customers have a dedicated team on whom they can rely, led by Deborah. She works with all of the business owners directly.
“The customer service that Debbie is providing is a value in itself,” Kyle says. “I know that when I have any issues that I'm going to be able to connect with her and get a response, and hopefully solve it together right away.”
Kyle and Deborah chat every few days, whether it’s to answer questions about best practices, or about the latest changes in medical marijuana legislation.
It’s a relationship that has stayed consistently strong from the very beginning, when Kyle first decided to set up a Blue Sky Bank Canna-Direct Account. Deborah and her team visited Main Street Meds to answer questions from Kyle and his staff.
“They were right there, holding my hand throughout the process so that I understood everything that I'm filling out, everything that's going to happen going forward and all the costs involved,” Kyle explains. “It all made perfect sense for me. And they're really responsive and helpful, so I can't recommend them enough. If you're thinking about opening a bank account, you should definitely consider them.”