Banking Archives - Green Market Report

Debra BorchardtSeptember 29, 2022
money2-2.jpg?fit=960%2C721&ssl=1

4min4130

Safe Harbor Financial, technically known as SHF Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq: SHFS) has completed its special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC) deal with Northern Lights Acquisition Corp. (Nasdaq: NLIT). Northern Lights is now officially known as SHF Holdings and the stock will continue to trade on the Nasdaq marketplace. SHFS Shares began trading at $9, down 12% as the broader market experienced selling and Norther Lights shares closed at $10.81 on Wednesday.

“Today represents a significant milestone in Safe Harbor’s journey,” said Sundie Seefried, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Safe Harbor. “We are thrilled to complete this transaction and eager to continue scaling our business and expanding our offerings to meet the needs of the cannabis industry in the United States. With the strong leadership from our executive management team, Board of Directors, and support from NLIT’s sponsor team, Safe Harbor is well-positioned to be the platform of choice for financial services providers to cannabis operators.”

The deal stumbled a bit on its way to completion, but ultimately was successful. Safe Harbor also closed on September 28, 2022 a PIPE in the amount of $20.45 million of convertible preferred stock and warrants.  To offset the reduced PIPE amount, Partner Colorado Credit Union, Safe Harbor’s indirect parent, agreed to a further amendment to the Unit Purchase Agreement, dated February 11, 2022 to provide for the deferral of approximately $57 million of the $70 million due to the Seller at the closing of the business combination. The increase in the Deferred Cash Consideration will provide Safe Harbor with additional cash to support its post-closing activities.

John Darwin, Co-CEO of NLIT prior to the closing, stated, “With its established leadership position in cannabis-related compliance services and continued growth in its financial institution clients, this is an exciting time for Safe Harbor to become part of a Nasdaq-listed company.”

Safe Harbor Financial was conceived in 2015 as a solution to a major problem that plagued the nascent legalized cannabis industry in Colorado– access to reliable and compliant financial services. Safe Harbor presently processes funds from 20 different states nationally.

Safe Harbor, realizing the funds from the cannabis industry were better banked than unbanked, ventured forward to do the right thing for everyone, bank the deposits under Partner Colorado Credit Union as a DBA up until 2021. Cannabis related funds were already finding their way into the financial system one way or another via hidden, misrepresented accounts and criminal banking behaviors similar to money launderers. After great research, it was obvious that every agency wanted to have accountability and transparency from the industry, but legislation was not supportive of such.

 

 

 


StaffMay 24, 2022
daily_hit001.png?fit=1200%2C344&ssl=1

8min120

The Daily Hit is a recap of the top cannabis business stories for May 24, 2022.

ON THE SITE

Live Blog from WEF 2022 in Davos Switzerland

Green Market Report editor-in-chief Debra Borchardt blogs live from the Medical Psychedelics Series, at the World Economic Forum being held in Davos Switzerland. Read more here.

MedMen Wins Suit Against Whitestar

MedMen Enterprises Inc. (CSE: MMEN) (OTCQX: MMNFF) won its lawsuit against Arizona-based Whitestar Solutions, LLC. According to a statement,  Whitestar filed a lawsuit in March 2020, related to a Membership Interest Purchase and Sale Agreement governing the purchase of EBA Holdings, Inc. dba MedMen Scottsdale. Whitestar alleged fraudulent inducement and breach of contract, among other claims, and sought rescission of the underlying transaction or $60 million in alleged monetary damages. Read more here.

Illegal Cannabis Lounges in NYC

These consumption lounges are operating without licenses and it seems the city and state don’t care. Since the adult-use license program hasn’t been written and approved, these operations are technically violating the law. No law means no violations. So there really isn’t anything law enforcement can do. These lounges range from the first to market Happy Munkey to pop-up neighborhood lounges that are often located next to illicit street sellers. Read more here.

Psychedelics Companies

As the industry matures, there are clear leaders in the pack of psychedelics companies who are positioned to continue driving industry development. Compass Pathways, Atai Life Sciences, and Cybin are generally considered the top three companies in the industry, asserting their dominance in the market, with Field Trip Health and Seelos Therapeutics as psychedelics companies to watch. Read more here.

IN OTHER NEWS

Aleafia Health Inc.

Aleafia Health Inc. (TSX: AH, OTCQX: ALEAF) is pleased to announce that its upward trend in market share, purchase orders, and new SKU launches has continued in 2022’s first four months, following on from the growth in the quarter ended December 31, 2021. The Company has seen strong advances in its largest adult-use categories: flower, pre-rolls and vapes. Read more here.

Curaleaf Holdings, Inc.

Curaleaf Holdings, Inc. (CSE: CURA /OTCQX: CURLF), an international provider of consumer products in cannabis, will begin adult-use sales at its Edgewater Park, New Jersey dispensary on May 25. Located at 4237 US-130, Curaleaf Edgewater Park is now the Company’s second location to sell adult-use cannabis in the Garden State. Read more here.

Rubicon Organics Inc.

Rubicon Organics Inc. (TSXV: ROMJ) (OTCQX: ROMJF), a licensed producer focused on cultivating and selling organic certified, premium cannabis, today reported its financial results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022. “Rubicon Organics is at a turning point in 2022, with higher yields and increased quality coming from our Delta Facility, whilst remaining cost-conscious we are driving to being profitable in 2022.” Read more here.

RIV Capital Inc., Etain LLC

RIV Capital Inc. (CSE: RIV) (OTC: CNPOF) today announced that it had received notice of an Ontario Superior Court of Justice application by JW Asset Management in connection with the Company’s process regarding its acquisition of ownership and control of Etain, LLC and Etain IP LLC, owners and operators of legally licensed cannabis cultivation and retail dispensaries in the state of New York. JWAM, an investment firm focused on the pharmaceutical and cannabis industries, is the holder of approximately 20.4% of the Company’s issued and outstanding Class A common shares. Read more here.

Pharmagreen Biotech, Inc., Long Valley Farms

Pharmagreen Biotech, Inc., (OTCQB: PHBI), which provides starter plantlets utilizing a proprietary tissue culture process, “Chibafreen,” to licensed cannabis cultivators and CBD/CBG hemp farmers, announced that it has completed another significant milestone in the business development with Long Valley Farms. Pharmagreen has advanced the next tranche of funds, whereby the use of proceeds is for the continuous application process for the LVF micro-business license and its nursery licenses in addition to the current cultivation license. PHBI anticipates having the permits in place within the following few months, depending on the regulator’s schedule. Read more here.

Avicanna Inc.

 Avicanna Inc. (TSX: AVCN) (OTCQX: AVCNF) (FSE: 0NN) a biopharmaceutical company focused on the development, manufacturing and commercialization of plant-derived cannabinoid-based products is pleased to announce that, through its majority owned Colombian subsidiary, Santa Marta Golden Hemp S.A.S., SMGH has completed its first commercial export of high concentration THC and high concentration CBD full spectrum psychoactive cannabis extracts to Portugal. Read more here.

Eden Empire Inc.

Eden Empire Inc. (CSE: EDEN) announced the signing of a non-binding letter of intent agreement with Plantvida located in Colombia. The agreement dated May 20th, 2022, is made by and between Eden Empire Inc. and Plantvida. The Plantvida SAS project located in north-western Cundinamarca, Colombia, is dedicated to implementing strategic social business, bringing safe, natural and ecologically friendly wellness products to the emerging cannabis business with the goal of providing work and social benefits to the community, such as education, unemployment, health, housing and security. Read more here.

Abaca

Arkansas-based cannabis financial technology firm Abaca has expanded coverage bringing digital-first banking, payment and treasury management solutions to Mississippi’s cannabis industry. Integral in banking 95 percent of Arkansas’s cannabis industry since day one and hundreds of cannabis clients across the country, Abaca is uniquely positioned to support Mississippi. Read more here.


StaffMarch 18, 2022
shutterstock_1136157254-scaled.jpg?fit=1200%2C825&ssl=1

6min160

KINDTAP


JULIA GERMAINE – OPERATING PARTNER,
KINDTAP/KINDRUN

 

What is your proudest accomplishment in the cannabis industry?

I’m most proud that my work has been a force of good, at the end of the day. The industry is complicated, volatile, and at times demoralizing – but I have created jobs and entire workforces, built and revitalized properties and community tax bases, and started conversations to normalize and respect the medical and adult-use of cannabis, in many different contexts and to diverse audiences.

 

Do you feel that the cannabis industry has more opportunities for female-identifying people than other industries?

I believe the opportunity for people who identify as female in the cannabis industry is about analogous to opportunity in equivalent sectors of other industries. Ten years ago, in different policy regimes, when traditional finance was still trepidatious about cannabis, there was a vacuum into which many womxn stepped. Some have been successful, but others have bowed out. Even more so than a lot of high-growth industries, like beauty, the cannabis industry is simply more difficult due to the plant’s fractured legal status in the US and within states (let alone abroad). There is a more open conversation about the disparities of female representation in leadership positions in cannabis, but I am a rare female operations executive – in part because my requisite experience has been gained in male-dominated environments like municipal government relations, construction, cultivation, manufacturing, etc. To ensure long-term sustainability, the cannabis industry right now demands operational expertise, not MBAs and ad executives, and I encourage female-identifying people to seriously consider how their operational skills in other industries and work environments might translate to cannabis.

 

Do you feel you have to work twice as hard as male colleagues or do you think the industry has moved past that?

I don’t have to work twice as hard as male colleagues, because I have authority gained through experience, and can point to a body of work that speaks for itself. The industry has not moved past prejudice, and women in the industry have not moved past the instinct to relegate themselves below typically more risk-tolerant men competing for the same space. I don’t maintain competitive relationships with my male colleagues, and likewise, because I’m very clear about where I begin and end. As colleagues, we share the same goals, and I am glad society is slowly moving past gender binaries that stifle female participation in economies.

 

What was your biggest challenge in business and how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge in business has been an unethical, negligent co-founder of an early cannabis business my family and I started. Capital and pedigree – both personal and academic – are often prerequisites to starting a business and raising money, and were more readily available than competence and operational expertise ten years ago. I have yet to overcome the encumbrance of the company and co-founder, but overcame the professional and personal frustration by re-starting – I have new partners and new businesses, and am much smarter and more-empowered than I was ten years ago.

 

What has you or your company done to help give more opportunities for women?

My company is woman-led at the executive and directorial level, and actively recruits diverse candidates for new positions, including women. We promote women into leadership positions. We are flexible about schedules and are fortunate to operate in Massachusetts, where employee protections and rights are strong, and support maternity and other types of leave that allow women to participate in the workforce. I personally mentor other women to bolster their leadership and soft skills, which are often accessible only through experience and exposure.

 

What are your personal goals for 2022?

As the business leader for one of the first cashless cannabis home delivery businesses in the country, I hope that we can not only generate several millions in revenue this year, but more importantly show the world our collective 3+ year efforts of moving cannabis into the fully-elevated age of digital commerce, and the ability to accomplish this through social equity-businesses and a diverse leadership team. On a personal note, I’m hoping to take a holiday to Paris with my husband at the end of the year.

 


Debra BorchardtFebruary 4, 2022
Capital.jpg?fit=1200%2C450&ssl=1

8min150

Is the gazillionth time the charm for the cannabis banking legislation known as the SAFE Act? Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives officially attached the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act to the full America COMPETES Act. A final vote in the House is expected today. However, it will them move to the Senate, where the legislation often fails to proceed any further.

The amendment comes from Colorado Democrat Rep. Ed Perlmutter and was preliminarily approved on a voice vote as part of an en bloc group with other amendments on Wednesday, according to Marijuana Moment but a roll call was requested. It was then passed in a 262-168 vote. In a Tweet, Perlmutter wrote:

I have filed #SAFEBanking as an amendment to #AmericaCOMPETES b/c cannabis-related businesses – big and small – are in desperate need of access to capital & the banking system in order to operate in an efficient, safe manner & compete in the growing global cannabis marketplace

Marijuana Moment also reported that there was no floor debate about the cannabis provision itself, demonstrating how relatively noncontroversial the bipartisan-supported reform is in the House.

“The SAFE Banking Act has been sitting in the Senate for three years and with every passing day their unwillingness to deal with the issue endangers and harms businesses, their employees and communities across the country,” Perlmutter said in a statement. “My work on this bill is far from over,” he continued. “As Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Schumer are aware, going forward, I plan to pursue every possible avenue to get SAFE Banking signed into law.”

Many in the House have blamed Senator Chuck Schumer for not advancing the SAFE Act in the Senate. Schumer has longed for a broader more comprehensive legalization effort and continually pulls the banking legislation from larger pieces of legislation. This has created an opening for Republicans to court cannabis advocates. Even proponent of the “Big Lie” Rep. Mace found herself getting lots of attention from cannabis industry executives for a bill she proposed. Credibility was apparently not an issue for these executives that fawned over Mace, even though her freshman status made it unlikely she could get any legislation approved.

Mississippi Legalizes

While Washington debates easing banking rules for the current legal businesses, states continue to move ahead. This week Mississippi became the 37th state to legalize medical marijuana. On Wednesday Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law the Mississippi Medical Cannabis Act. The bill known as S.B. 2095 was originally approved in January by the state Legislature. Voters had approved of legalizing medical marijuana as a ballot issue, but then the state Supreme Court struck it down on a technicality pushing the issue to legislators. The Governor wasn’t a big fan of the law saying on Twitter:

The “medical marijuana bill” has consumed an enormous amount of space on the front pages of the legacy media outlets across Mississippi over the last 3+ years. There is no doubt that there are individuals in our state who could do significantly better if they had access to medically prescribed doses of cannabis. There are also those who really want a recreational marijuana program that could lead to more people smoking and less people working, with all of the societal and family ills that that brings.

My goal from Day 1 (post Supreme Court ruling) has been to allow for the former and do everything in my power to minimize and mitigate – though knowing it is impossible to eliminate – the likelihood of the latter. After all, the overwhelming majority voted for a medical marijuana program in the 2019 election and I committed to supporting the will of the people.

I have made it clear that the bill on my desk is not the one that I would have written. But it is a fact that the legislators who wrote the final version of the bill (the 45th or 46th draft) made significant improvements to get us towards accomplishing the ultimate goal. Just a small sampling of the improvements we fought to include in the final version of the bill:

1. Reduces the total amount that any one individual can receive to 3 oz. per month. This one change will reduce the total amount by 40% from the original version (I asked for 50%). Said differently, there will be hundreds of millions of fewer joints on the streets because of this improvement.

2. The medical professional can only prescribe within the scope of his/her practice. And they have to have a relationship with the patient. And it requires an in-person visit by the patient to the medical professional.

3. Only an MD or DO can prescribe for kids under 18 and only with the consent of a parent/legal guardian.

4. An MD or DO must prescribe for young adults between the ages of 18-25.

5. The MSDH will promulgate rules regarding packaging and advertising, and I have confidence they will do so in a way that limits the impact on our young people.

6. Prohibits any incentives for the Industry from the Mississippi Development Authority.

7. Protects our churches and schools from having a marijuana dispensary within fewer than 1,000 feet of their location.

Because of these improvements to the program (as well as many other small ones that I am not mentioning), SB2095 will become law. I thank all of the legislators for their efforts on these improvements and all of their hard work. I am most grateful to all of you: Mississippians who made your voice heard.

Now, hopefully, we can put this issue behind us and move on to other pressing matters facing our state.

 

 

 


StaffJanuary 24, 2022
banking001.jpg?fit=960%2C640&ssl=1

3min241

Cannabis banking provider Dama Financial has entered into an agreement to acquire GrowFlow Corp. for an undisclosed amount. GrowFlow is a business management and compliance company that has processed more than $3.3 billion for cannabis retailers, cultivators, processors, and distributors. The deal is said to be planned to close this quarter.

“With this acquisition, we are creating the leading platform for cannabis operators, essentially a one-stop-shop for the business tools they need to thrive,” said Anh Hatzopoulos, Dama’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “We created Dama to solve real problems for the industry through innovation, and integrating GrowFlow’s software into our fintech is a huge step forward in that mission. To be successful in the long term, cannabis operators need legal, compliant, forward-looking solutions like Dama’s that don’t skirt restrictions through workarounds, and this sets us up to keep innovating to champion our customers and propel a booming market.”

GrowFlow was founded in 2016 and is a B2B SaaS platform that is dedicated to helping its customers grow their cannabis businesses. It provides compliance, inventory management, point of sale, analytics and sales tools for cannabis and hemp businesses at various points in the supply chain.

The company said in a statement that by combining Dama’s fintech and payment solutions and GrowFlow’s industry-leading software platform the two will create a comprehensive solution for cannabis companies, integrating product, operations, compliance, and financial data in a more usable and flexible solution than any current offering in the industry.

“I could not be more excited about this merging of minds and technologies,” said Travis Steffen, chief executive officer of GrowFlow. “Our leadership teams have nearly identical views of the industry and how it is evolving. Bringing our solutions together will allow us to serve customers in many unique ways and compete on much more than price.”


Debra BorchardtDecember 14, 2021
tech.jpg?fit=960%2C641&ssl=1

19min342

Visa (NYSE: V) could begin cracking down on the way many cannabis customers use their debit cards to make a purchase and the change could have a devastating effect on the cannabis industry. Numerous companies have been created in order to address the payments issue facing the industry since the major credit card companies like Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. (NYSE: MA), and Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) have all stated they won’t process cannabis transactions. The major banks have also taken this stance and it’s all because cannabis remains federally illegal. 

A memo dated December 2 that was first reported on Marijuana Moment stated, “Visa is aware of a scheme where POS devices marketed as “Cashless ATMs” are being deployed at merchant outlets and are operating in violation of the Visa Core Rules and Visa Product and Service Rules and Plus Core Rules and Plus Product and Service Rules.” Often a customer will walk into a dispensary and make a purchase of say $62 and the budtender will ring up the purchase as $65. The transaction is coded as an ATM withdrawal, but the customer never receives the whole $65, they would instead just get the $3 in change. So many companies have been doing this “workaround” for so long it was becoming accepted as an approved transaction, but that isn’t so.

“Those products were never permissible,” said Tyler Beuerlein of Hypur Inc., a Scottsdale-based payment and banking technology platform that services highly regulated industries like cannabis. “They were never compliant. You’re purposely misrepresenting the nature of a transaction” he said. “There are billions of dollars a year worth of transactions being processed fraudulently.” 

The memo doesn’t specifically state that it’s directed at cannabis companies, but it does say, “Cashless ATMs are primarily marketed to merchant types that are unable to obtain payment services—whether due to the Visa Rules, the rules of other networks, or legal or regulatory prohibitions. Therefore, supporting this scheme affects the integrity of VisaNet and the Plus network, as well as the Visa payment system.” Several people interviewed have said that typically when a memo of this sort is sent out, Visa often follows up shortly with enforcement. Such enforcement could have a drastic effect on thousands of cannabis companies who rely on the workaround to allow customers to have a seamless traditional retail purchasing experience.

“Cannabis retailers should break up with their ATMs before they break up with them,” said Cathy Corby Iannuzzelli a Principal at digital payment company KindTap.  “ ‘Cashless ATMs’ have been misrepresented to cannabis retailers as a compliant payment solution, and they have been misrepresented to consumers as debit purchases. Financial institutions that refund out-of-network ATM withdrawal fees for their customers have also been unwittingly subsidizing cannabis transactions. Consumers who expect debit transactions to be covered by network satisfaction guarantees have no recourse. The red flag should have been raised years ago when dispensaries were instructed to have customers round-up their debit purchases to $5 or $10 increments. Instead, an industry hungry for cashless payments accepted the assurances of ATM sales reps and now cannabis retailers run the risk of the rapid removal of cashless ATMs and return to largely cash-based sales.”

While some in the industry were rattled at the news of the memo Katrina Skinner, General Counsel & Chief Banking Officer at Simplifya seemed to take it in stride saying, “The Visa memo does not actually state that cashless ATMs are illegal; it says that miscoding transactions on a POS system as an ATM cash disbursement, rather than a purchase transaction, violates Visa network rules and that acquirers who allow such violations may be subject to compliance assessments/penalties, including for intentional network rule violations. The memo is directed at acquirers, processors, issuers, and agents who have a contractual duty to ensure network rules are followed. In doing so, Visa is essentially shifting the burden for ensuring network compliance onto the acquirers. Whether the acquirers will take action remains to be seen.”

It’s true the memo doesn’t say that it is illegal, however, the fraudulent payment case involving delivery service company Eaze case clearly demonstrates that some people are facing prison sentences for knowingly processing transactions that aren’t approved. At the end of the day making a pretend transaction is bank fraud. 

Visa/Mastercard Just Say No

Both Visa and Mastercard have consistently said no to any type of transaction processing when it comes to cannabis. American Express (NYSE: AXP) also prohibits any marijuana-related business for transactions. Since cannabis is federally illegal, credit card companies have said they will not work with the industry. Once it becomes federally legal – that could change. The result had been that many dispensaries had a physical ATM machine located within the store. That worked great for walk-in traffic, but during the pandemic and lockdowns, online orders became hugely popular. Dispensaries scrambled to create online menus and companies like Dutchie had perfect timing to help them create the back office programs to accept and fulfill orders. 

Customers could make purchases online and then just drive by and have curbside service to pick up their orders. That convenience factor has continued even as lockdowns have been over for some time and stores have reopened. Walk into any dispensary and you’ll now see a section devoted to pickup orders. Losing online purchases could wreak havoc on dispensary owners who have enjoyed sharing the efficiencies with their customers. 

What’s The Problem?

There are a couple of issues that are at the core of this type of transaction processing. The first is that it is federally illegal and technically neither the banks nor credit card companies can process a transaction for something illegal. While many in the cannabis industry get indignant about being called illegal when many states have legalized it, it remains federally illegal. Visa and Mastercard have equal concerns about cashless ATMs being used for child trafficking and other more dangerous drugs. They can’t just carve cannabis out of the illegal transaction world.

The transaction violates the ‘know your customer’ edict. When a consumer makes a transaction, it becomes attached to it. For example, if Jane uses an ATM machine at a dispensary then the withdrawal is attached to Jane. If Jane does the workaround at the register of the dispensary, the transaction gets attached to the dispensary, not Jane. Thus the banks and credit card companies can’t keep track of the transaction and this is when the concept of money laundering comes in. The transaction isn’t clearly attached to the correct person. The transaction is processed with the knowledge that this purchase isn’t being handled truthfully. Jane is making an actual purchase from a dispensary – not truly getting an ATM withdrawal. 

Therefore, the unapproved process is money laundering and bank fraud. People could go to jail. In the situation with Eaze, whose former Chief Executive Officer was found guilty of allowing fraudulent credit card purchases. In June, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff sentenced Eaze banking consultants Hamid (Ray) Akhavan, 43, to two and a half years in prison and Ruben Weigand to 15 months in prison. The story noted that the jury convicted the two men on one count each of conspiracy to commit bank fraud in March.  The former CEO of Eaze, James Patterson pled guilty to the crime. He had been working with Akhavan and Weigand, who disguised the payments to sneak them past the banks and credit card companies. Patterson is scheduled to be sentenced in February.

Who Takes The Blame?

In October, Dutchie raised $350 million and received a $3.75 billion valuation based on its tech platform that facilitates orders. Those transactions often include a prohibited process that Visa has signaled it will not allow and will begin charging penalties.  One source though claimed that Dutchie doesn’t actually touch the payment portion of the transaction and that that responsibility falls back onto the dispensary owner. Dutchie did not receive a copy of the Visa memo. The interesting thing about that argument is that it is exactly what Eaze said before the company’s former CEO admitted to doing what the company claimed it didn’t do. 

Of course, Dutchie isn’t the only large cannabis company that is somewhat associated with this method of transaction and there are plenty of payment processing companies in the cannabis industry. Just about every major MSO has some sort of online purchasing where customers use their debit cards or allows this sort of workaround at the physical point of sale. Some of these MSO’s are ringing up over a billion dollars in sales and it will be up to the CEO to either claim ignorance or be willing to pay fines while it searches for another alternative. Could CEOs receive a prison sentence for bank fraud for allowing unapproved transactions under their watch? 

The issue could be the start of a cascade of lawsuits from investors claiming they were bamboozled. Investors could be pretty angry to think they were told this was okay when the company’s management knew it wasn’t. Then the question becomes whether the Chief Executive Officer of an MSO can be accused of bank fraud if they allowed this type of processing to happen in their dispensaries. Could the MSOs point the finger at their platform companies and place the blame on them? Also even if Dutchie or any of the other payment processors doesn’t touch the payment portion of the transaction, are they facilitating a transaction that they know is not allowed and thus guilty as well? 

Solutions

Even though many in the industry felt that the Safe Banking language in the proposed legislation would have resolved the issue, that isn’t the case. The proposed language did not change the federal legal status of cannabis and would not have changed the issue with the banks or the credit card companies. “It’s unfortunate that certain underserved industries continue to live in fear of their business operations being impacted overnight. It leaves many scrambling for options,” said Dan Muller, CEO, AeroPay, a fintech company with a payment platform used by the cannabis industry. 

There is a group within the cannabis industry trying to create a separate credit card like a Discovery card that will operate outside of the Visa/Mastercard world, but it doesn’t exist yet. Several companies are building platforms that exist outside the credit card rails, but they still need a bank attached to the process. Plus, the situation though can be confusing as some companies have claimed to be compliant when they aren’t and it becomes difficult to ascertain who is telling the truth. Like in the case of Eaze, which insisted it did nothing wrong, and then the ex-CEO confessed it did. 

Dutchie CEO and Cofounder Ross Lipson said, “We are heavily investing in R&D to continue creating and launching innovative products that help further normalize the industry, provide safe and easy access, and make it easier for dispensaries to run their business and retain more customers. We are excited to be close to launching a closed-loop ACH product to provide our customers and consumers with a cashless payment option that’s sustainable, compliant, and easy to use.”

Muller said there are plenty of compliant solutions available now and that industry doesn’t need to do the workaround anymore. “FinTech companies like AeroPay provide compliant, integrated payment solutions for the cannabis industry,” Muller said. “Our solution facilitates account-to-account bank transfers through the ACH (Automated Clearing House) and we work alongside partner financial institutions and state regulators to ensure the highest levels of transparency.”

Skinner went on to say, “While cashless ATMs have become prevalent in the legal cannabis industry, they have also been used as a cashless payment solution for other high-risk industries that clearly have a need for them. Since cashless ATMs aren’t new and continue to be utilized by other industries, it’s unclear how Visa’s memo will affect the continued use of these solutions and whether the merchants employing them will be forced to seek other payment solutions. Thankfully, there are more compliant payment solutions available now than ever before. So although there may be some disruption if acquirers take steps to determine what solutions may be miscoding transactions, or if Visa decides to enforce its rules by taking action against the acquirers, licensed cannabis merchants will be able to replace Cashless ATMs with new payment solutions more easily than ever.

Still, the scope of fallout for this is astounding. It will touch just about every aspect of the industry, whether it’s ancillary companies or MSO’s. The removal of the cashless ATM option will affect just about everyone involved in the cannabis industry. 

“I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for years,” said Beuerlein. “When the investor base realizes the payment methodology behind these companies was never going to survive  – it was never a compliant solution. I imagine it could end up a litigious mess.” He added, “This should not have been a surprise to anyone.”


Gretchen GaileyJuly 15, 2021
money2-2.jpg?fit=960%2C721&ssl=1

5min290

Editors Note: This is an opinion piece. 

Wednesday afternoon Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) unveiled the discussion draft of their long-awaited cannabis legalization bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act.

The legislation would federally deschedule the plant, while allowing states to continue governing themselves with policies they deem appropriate. It also creates much needed social equity programs and creates a strategy for taxation. The two major surprises of the day were how middle of the road the legislation comes across and how fervently Booker is opposed to allowing the SAFE Banking Act to move forward. 

“If somebody tries in the Senate to do just the banking bill, they are going to make all the wealth and all the money that is going out after this, already is a multi-billion-dollar industry, what could become a bigger industry just so some people could get rich…. I will lay myself down to do everything I can to stop an easy banking bill that’s gonna allow all these corporations to make a lot more money off of this — as opposed to focusing on the restorative justice aspect,” said Booker.

Unfortunately, Booker has been led astray if he genuinely believes that SAFE Banking will do nothing except make a few rich corporations richer. There are over 32,000 licensed adult-use cannabis businesses and an additional 31,000 hemp licenses in this country, the potential benefit of the SAFE banking Act extends well beyond the perceived benefits to larger corporations. Many of these small businesses struggle everyday with exorbitant banking fees and ungodly minimum balance requirements.  

“The significant majority of cannabis businesses are small businesses, many of which are women or BIPOC operated. By not having access to traditional financial services such as bridge loans, insurance, or credit card services, these small business owners are disproportionately impacted by the lack of banking services and financing to keep their doors open. Then when they fail, they are again punished with personal wealth destruction due to the lack of bankruptcy protection,” said Beau Whitney, founder and Chief Economist of Whitney Economics.

It is understandable that Booker is concerned about groups that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs being left behind with just the passage of the SAFE Banking, but it’s shortsighted to not see the benefits that it would also provide to those communities, like access to loans, lower fees and the capital necessary to grow a business.

The SAFE Banking Act also addresses the lack of safety in the industry.  

“Many businesses have to operate in cash only leaving them quite vulnerable to crime, along with their employees.  They cannot pay their taxes electronically and half to travel with large amounts of cash and armed guards. The SAFE Banking Act is addressing a public safety crisis for small cannabis operators,” added Whitney.

Cannabis businesses need relief now and they need it from a piece of legislation that has already passed in the House and has bipartisan support in the Senate. The cannabis industry cannot continue to wait for a pie in the sky all-or-nothing bill that Democrats don’t even support, let alone the president. And let’s get real, can the Democrats retain power in both the Senate and the House through the midterms to find another day to fight for cannabis legalization? 

The one sure way to keep small businesses from succeeding in this industry is by continuing the same banking policies that currently exist today. Senator Booker, SAFE Banking is not protecting large corporations. Frankly, they have banking already.

 

 

 


Debra BorchardtApril 19, 2021
Capital.jpg?fit=1200%2C450&ssl=1

6min151

Cannabis legalization advocates must be feeling a sense a deja vu. Today, the House of Representatives approved legislation (again) that would provide safe harbor for financial service providers to work with cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state laws. Called the SAFE ACT, (Secure and Fair Enforcement) Banking Act, or H.R. 1996, was reintroduced in March by Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Steve Stivers (R-OH), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Warren Davidson (R-OH), and had 177 total cosponsors by the time of the vote. The legislation was approved by a vote of 321-101, including a majority of voting Republicans.

Steve Hawkins, executive director at the Marijuana Policy Project said, “This vote marks a meaningful first step in establishing a more equitable cannabis industry and improves the likelihood that other cannabis legislation will advance at the federal level. Restricting cannabis businesses from accessing financial services creates an unnecessary burden for the industry and limits economic growth. If enacted into law, the SAFE Banking Act would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry by providing resources for those with limited access to capital and increasing the chances of success for state-level social equity initiatives. Further, it would protect the 321,000 employees directly affected by the cannabis industry’s lack of access to financial services.”

The SAFE Banking Act previously cleared the House in 2019. The language of the bill was also included in two rounds of COVID-19 relief packages that were approved by the House. This is the fourth time that the House has approved the language of the SAFE Banking Act, initially as the first standalone cannabis policy reform bill ever passed by either chamber of Congress in 2019 and two more times last year as part of pandemic relief packages that were not approved in the Senate.

“We are incredibly grateful to the bill sponsors who have been working with us for the last eight years to make this sensible legislation become law and have shepherded it through the House time and again,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Cannabis Industry Association. “The SAFE Banking Act is vital for improving public safety and transparency and will improve the lives of the more than 300,000 people who work in the state-legal cannabis industry. It will also help level the playing field for small businesses and communities with limited access to capital. It is time for the Senate to start considering the companion legislation without delay.”

Advocates are hopeful that Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH) will take up the bill in the near future so that it can begin to move through the upper chamber as soon as possible and become law before the end of the year. The SAFE Banking Act would protect financial institutions from federal prosecution for providing banking and other services to cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state law, as well as help address serious public health and safety concerns caused by operating in predominantly cash-only environments. The legislation would improve the operational viability of small businesses by helping them reduce costs associated with lack of access to banking and increasing options for traditional lending that many small businesses in other fields rely upon. It would also mandate a study on diversity in the cannabis industry.

“For the first time since Joe Biden assumed the presidency, a supermajority of the House has voted affirmatively to recognize that the legalization and regulation of marijuana is a superior public policy to prohibition and criminalization,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal. “However, the SAFE Banking Act is only a first step at making sure that these state-legal markets operate safely and efficiently. The sad reality is that those who own or patronize the unbanked businesses are themselves criminals in the eyes of the federal government, which can only be addressed by removing marijuana from the list of controlled substances.”

Separate from advocacy groups, corporate cannabis was encouraged as well. Medical Marijuana, Inc. (MJNA) CEO Dr. Stuart Titus said, “Though the cannabis industry has been deemed ‘essential’ during the pandemic, it still mainly operates as a high-liability, cash-only business. We’ve been looking forward to the passage of the SAFE Banking Act for nearly a year but with Democrats now in control of the House, Senate and White House, it’s finally happened. While we have generally resolved the majority of our banking and merchant processing issues that we saw when we began selling CBD throughout the US in 2012, we have done so at tremendous ongoing legal expenses and efforts. We hope that this bill can help other leaders in the overall cannabis industry avoid such hurdles and that it leads to expanded access to cannabis, hemp and CBD across the nation. We’ve seen that the number of banks servicing cannabis businesses has decreased over the past few months and we hope that this bill encourages banks to rethink that decision.”


Choose Your News

Subscribe to the Green Market Report newsletter that gives you original content delivered straight to your inbox.

 Subscribe

We respect your privacy. See our privacy policy.


About Us

The Green Market Report focuses on the financial news of the rapidly growing cannabis industry. Our target approach filters out the daily noise and does a deep dive into the financial, business and economic side of the cannabis industry. Our team is cultivating the industry’s critical news into one source and providing open source insights and data analysis


READ MORE



Recent Tweets

@GreenMarketRpt – 2 hours

Landlords Just Saying No To Cannabis

@GreenMarketRpt – 7 hours

Cannabis Banking Bill Passage After Election Season Is ‘Likely’, Analyst Says

Back to Top

Choose Your News

Subscribe to the Green Market Report newsletter that gives you original content delivered straight to your inbox.

 Subscribe

We respect your privacy. See our privacy policy.