One of the biggest headaches for cannabis businesses is lack of support from financial services providers and banking institutions. The current scarcity of access to traditional forms of funding and transaction processing makes it especially difficult for companies in the industry to function and thrive like any other business adhering to state laws.
And it’s not just plant-touching business owners who are struggling with these issues. Ancillary service providers and media companies that may never come into contact with a single cannabis product increasingly are subject to account closures, line-of-credit (LOC) denials, and a swath of other significant roadblocks.
With the SAFE Banking Act and federal legalization continuing to be just out of reach, many in the industry wonder if they’ll ever catch a break.
Dispensaries that relied on cashless ATMs to help cover payment processing recently had the rug pulled from under them when one of the largest ATM service providers in the United States announced it was cracking down on a quasi-legal transaction coding practice. Responsible for roughly $7 billion (or 25 percent of all cannabis transactions), the move sent many dispensaries back to cash-only sales, putting them at higher risk for crime and adding barriers to purchasing for consumers.
Some smaller credit unions and state-chartered banks have begun offering legitimate cannabis-related businesses a selection of basic financial and banking services, but they represent only a handful of markets. (PBC Conference, a group working to define and mature the cannabis banking ecosystem, has created a list of industry-friendly banks.)
The American Bankers Association, a leading trade organization based in the District of Columbia and representing thousands of banks across the country, has called for safe cannabis banking on the federal and state levels. But the plea continues to fall on deaf ears.
In response to the industry’s woes, a small selection of companies led by teams with collective decades of traditional financial industry experience have emerged to serve cannabis businesses directly or help facilitate financial services with FDIC-insured institutions. From real estate loans and bank accounts to comprehensive treasury management, these financial services providers and cannabis banks offer a spectrum of solutions to consider in 2023.
Providing a variety of lending and working capital products to plant-touching and ancillary cannabis companies of all sizes, San Diego-based FundCanna has emerged as a financing-focused resource with solutions for vendor financing, working capital, equipment financing, and cannabis dispensary financing. Dispensary owners may use working capital — a type of non-dilutive cash loan — to fund short-term operations and daily operating expenses including staff payroll, inventory purchases, rent, cash-flow gaps, and other small business or marketing endeavors.
While some FundCanna solutions may be limited by state, many dispensary owners also may qualify for a variety of financing solutions including cash advances, equipment financing, and commercial real estate loans. According to the firm, FundCanna’s team has funded “[more than] $20 billion to small and medium businesses nationwide,” with some cannabis loans approved in 24 hours. Potential borrowers may apply online with a three-step process that can be completed in about five minutes once all the proper documents have been collected. Financing terms are not publicly listed.
Based in Southern California, Monarch offers escrow services; payment-processing automated clearing house (ACH) services, cash vault, and pickup services; accounting and invoicing; enterprise resource management and banking through a variety of credit unions and state-chartered banks to provide bank accounts that are nearly identical to those enjoyed by non-marijuana-related entities.
Banking customers may be able to use ATM/debit cards, write checks, and access their non-interest-bearing accounts online or by interacting with banking staff. Opening an account is a process and typically takes less than three weeks, depending on the applicant’s ability to gather the significant documentation and paperwork required to apply.
Monarch’s Helox platform, an ecosystem for cannabis payments, is the first mobile payment app designed for the cannabis space approved by Apple’s App Store. The software solution is a compliant, contactless bank-to-bank transfer platform for iPhone and Android that allows businesses to collect customer and vendor payments without using cash. Custom integration is available to connect Monarch tools with many cannabis or non-cannabis point-of-sale (POS) systems.
Dama works with U.S.-based sponsor bank partners to provide services including FDIC-insured interest-bearing accounts, cash management with smart safes and armored car pick-up, payroll processing, secured credit cards, loans, and consumer payments for in-store, delivery, and online purchases through Paytender.
Banking services require no minimum deposit or mandatory withdrawals and offer unlimited cash deposits, tax payment management, mobile access through the Dama app, and the ability to invoice or pay by ACH, wire, or check.
Dama may be used with many POS software systems thanks to integration partnerships with BioTrack, Blaze, Cova, Dauntless, Jane Technologies, Meadow, MJ Freeway, and Onfleet. For cultivators who deal in seasonal or cyclical revenue streams, Dama offers products and pricing that align with the realities of running a commercial cannabis operation.
Paybotic, based in Florida, has a decade of experience assisting cannabis businesses with processing payments, obtaining loans, and setting up merchant bank accounts with credible financial institutions in 20 states.
For dispensaries, Paybotic offers solutions for compliant debit card and ecommerce payment processing, electronic checks, merchant cash advances, and loans. With a relatively fast application process, businesses can get set up with Paybotic within one to two business days.
Paybotic integrates with many POS systems but can also be used as a standalone solution tailored to the unique needs of almost any retailer. Customers pay a one-time onboarding cost and a monthly fee without any transaction fees, and clients can access their funds through direct deposit as early as the next business day.
In addition to other financial services and products like smart safes and gift card programs, Paybotic also can help businesses adopt a complete portfolio of insurance products through a “leading insurance provider” to cover general liability, cyber liability, business interruption, and business owner policies.
Safe Harbor Financial
Publicly traded Safe Harbor Financial, founded in Colorado in 2015, facilitates industry-compliant financial services including business loans, payment solutions, checking and savings accounts, cash pick-up and delivery, electronic tax filing, mobile banking, remote deposit, debit cards, ACH, and domestic wire transfers. The company claims to have processed more than $12 billion in cannabis-related funds to date.
Financial services are managed through Safe Harbor’s Cannabis Banking Solutions Platform with 24/7 online access to checking and savings accounts for day-to-day business as well as a personal banker who will authenticate and facilitate all wire transfers associated with an account. Loans are available for purchasing commercial property, buying new equipment, refinancing an existing commercial real estate loan, and cashing out an existing commercial property to help business owners pay off debts or rebrand for a new venture.
Safe Harbor works with financial institutions to help complete the due diligence, monitoring, and reporting requirements necessary to provide compliant services to cultivators, dispensaries, delivery services, cannabis associations, industry consultants, landlords, and ancillary companies that serve the industry.
Abaca is an Arkansas-based subsidiary of Safe Harbor Financial focused on providing “cutting-edge banking and financial solutions” for small businesses and multistate operators (MSOs). Abaca helps businesses access secure, FDIC-insured bank accounts, payment processing solutions, and a variety of term and conventional loans.
Term loans range from $50k to $250k with a repayment grace period of up to six months, qualification in as little as 48 hours, and funds deposited within two business days on average for customers with a proven cash flow for six months and at least three months of banking history. Larger conventional loans of up to $5 million are available to new and existing operators with hard assets like real estate and equipment for collateral, three months of banking history, and a personal guarantee.
Sample deals include a $4.3-million refinancing loan for a 63,000-square-foot licensed medical cannabis cultivation facility, a $1.2-million construction loan and permanent financing for a new medical cannabis dispensary, and a $3.6-million revolving LOC to purchase an ownership interest in and recapitalize a license.
With AbacaPay, small businesses and MSOs can offer debit transactions for in-store and delivery sales. According to an Abaca retail payment study of 15,000 medical dispensary transactions over a one-month period, cashless baskets had a 25 percent greater value at $136.35 than cash transactions, which averaged $109.06.
Fincann is a consulting and advisory firm connecting cannabis companies with financial institutions through its Cannabis Banking Financial Network of 237 “industry-friendly banks.” The account application process typically takes one to three months to complete and requires a one-time advisory fee for introductions to the best-matching financial institutions with a pre-qualified business profile. In some cases, a minimum opening deposit may be required as well as sector-specific monthly account maintenance and deposit processing fees.
Fincann’s merchant processing services are fully compliant and transparent alternatives to the cashless ATM workaround that’s been halted by most card and ATM networks. With merchant processing, retailers can “accept debit cards in a compliant, transparent, and straightforward manner,” according to the company. Sales are completed for the precise dollar amount, not rounded to the nearest $5 or $20.
Merchant costs include interchange or merchant bank account fees, plus 3 percent and a $0.35 transaction fee in addition to a $30 monthly service fee. The service fee pays for includes an account statement, online reporting, and payment card industry compliance.
Fincann also can help clients secure direct business checking accounts for THC licensees including licensed test labs and transporters in 37 states and Washington, D.C.
Greenbax Marketplace, a financial technology subsidiary of North Bay Credit Union, was established in 2017 to “create a level playing field” for the cannabis industry by providing the types of financial opportunities and tools available to traditional businesses. Greenbax positions itself as a single destination to connect cannabis-related businesses with compliant partners for a full suite of banking services, business insurance, payroll, in-store ATMs, and lending.
Greenbax customers can take advantage of unlimited deposits, electronic payments, mobile banking through a secure portal, smart safes, cash vaulting, armored car cash transport, and the ability to pay vendors by ACH, wire, or check. Greenbax is not a traditional bank but operates with its affiliate Austin Capital Trust Company LLC, a Nevada chartered trust company utilized for the benefit of the account holders at one or more FDIC-insured financial institutions.