THOMASTON — “That was a punch to my gut,” said Brooke McLaughlin.

McLaughlin is not eligible for a mortgage due to the nature of her work. She is the Northern Regional Sales Manager for Cannabis Cured, and oversees recreational and medical stores in Thomaston, Bangor and Fairfield.

Despite all signs of the growing cannabis industry in Maine, workers in this field face one huge obstacle: marijuana is not legal federally. Employees, like McLaughlin, are not eligible for federal loans. For her, the information came as a shock, but she is still looking into possible solutions.

“I didn’t know that. I guess maybe I should have thought about it, but… this is what pays my bills,” she said.

While her fiancé can apply for the mortgage in his name, McLaughlin said her income will not count toward the application.

Still, she is passionate about her work. “I love this job; I love this company,” she said.

The American Bankers Association and the Maine Bankers Association are aware of the problem, as 36 states legalized marijuana for recreational or personal use.

“The time has come for Congress and the regulatory agencies to provide greater legal clarity to banks operating in states where cannabis has been legalized for medical or adult recreational use,” the American Bankers Association wrote in a recent statement.

“It will soon be almost impossible to avoid banking cannabis-related businesses as cannabis grows into an estimated $24.1 billion industry by 2025.”

The federal prohibition on marijuana products also means recreational cannabis stores are a cash-only business. They cannot accept credit or debit cards for payment of their products.

“If you’re going to go to a marijuana retail store, bring your cash,” said lawyer Hannah King.

King, who works for Portland’s Drummond and Woodsum, has been involved in the legal side of cannabis since 2014, when she started working with native tribes around marijuana regulation. She is currently the leading attorney in the industry and has been involved with most of Maine’s cannabis laws.

King said the cash-only aspect is the biggest issue right now. Most banks will not lend to these businesses or even allow them to open an account.

Currently, only two financial institutions have what King calls a depository relationship with cannabis companies. This means the company is allowed to have an account at the institution. These two credit unions are cPort and Skowhegan Savings.

McLaughlin said being a cash-only business has some other unforeseen hurdles.

“We’re running into issues getting change,” she said.

The company’s main bank does not have any branches in the midcoast area, and banks want the company to have an account to make change for them.

There is a similar problem with refilling the ATM in the shop’s lobby. The company purchased the ATM, McLaughlin said, but the money must come directly from the credit union.

McLaughlin said she thinks a big part of working in the cannabis industry is being able to adapt. “The laws are constantly changing,” she said. Not only that, each city and town in Maine can set their own rules for the shops.

In Portland and Bangor, the adult-use shops cannot have transparent windows. McLaughlin said this is not the case in Thomaston, though.

King said each municipality must “opt in” to allow cannabis stores, by passing an ordinance. If the municipality does nothing, King said the stores are not allowed in that town or city.

Rockland’s ordinance allows six medical or recreational cannabis stores. Waldoboro allows medical stores, but not recreational ones. Some municipalities passed ordinances prohibiting retail marijuana stores. Warren recently passed an ordinance at the June town meeting to allow retail businesses, and they are currently accepting and processing applications.

McLaughlin said following the laws and the local ordinances is very important to the company. “We are by the law,” she said. “We cherish our company.”

A big part of the state law around selling adult-use cannabis is that only adults age 21 and older can be in the store or purchase the product.

Cannabis Cured scans customer’s ID when the first enter the store.

McLaughlin said not everyone is happy about this, but the company must follow the laws to stay in business. Sometimes tourists from out of state are curious and want to see the shop, but McLaughlin said they may not want their ID scanned, or may not want to give their name when they make a purchase.

A few weeks ago, a customer, presumably someone from out of state, was trying to give a fake name to the cashier when he checked out. Cashiers at both medical and recreational shops are known as “bud tenders.” Like a bar-tender, only they serve marijuana.

The bud tender was polite. This was likely something she dealt with before.

She informed the customer she did not have that name in the computer, and he needed to give her his real name so she could match the sale of the product to the correct customer in the computer. After finally relenting and giving his real name, the customer insisted, “I was never here!”

Cannabis Cured does not share their sales information with anyone, even at the state level. They do report their sales to the state, but not names. Instead, McLaughlin said their sales system stores the information for future sales. If a customer comes in and wants to purchase the same product, the shop has that information on file.

The reason behind matching the scanned ID with the sales is to prevent accidental sales to minors. Even though minors are not allowed in the store, it is an extra level of prevention and protection for the store.

From left, Bud Tender Meghan Pease and Sales Manager Brooke McLaughlin display product at Cannabis Cured recreational shop, Thomaston. Christine Simmonds