Banks Are Freaking Out Over Ancillary Cannabis Companies
The cannabis community as a whole experiences more freedoms in 2017 than it has since federal prohibition was enacted in 1937.
Eight states have legalized cannabis for adult use, 29 states have legalized cannabis for medical use, and more states are no doubt on their way to joining them. Washington D.C. has legalized both forms of cannabis policy.
Yet, consumers and cannabis companies still face quite a bit of stigma despite the reform victories that have occurred over the last two decades.
The stigma is still strong enough that companies which don't even 'touch the cannabis plant' are being discriminated against by financial institutions.
For several years cultivation and dispensary operators have been locked out by major banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions. But even ancillary companies that don't event touch the plant are seeing their accounts closed, and with little notice.
A growing dream comes to a grinding halt
Imagine that you started a company, one that you had dreamed about starting for a very long time. Through hard work, savvy business skills, sacrifice, and determination, you start seeing solid growth in your company.
You check your financial accounts, and in every measurable way your success is growing. Now imagine that it comes to a grinding halt because the company that processes your online store transactions is terminated, and with virtually no prior notice.
That was the case for a company that Green Flower recently talked to. The company wished to remain anonymous for fear of further targeting by financial institutions.
The company was founded on a concept of selling accessory products online that are used for cannabis consumption (stash boxes, herbal grinders, etc.).
The company also incorporated a blog that educated customers on the benefits of cannabis, and specifically the benefits of certain forms of consumption via the devices they sold.
"We didn't even think twice about it, we just operated like any other company would with a store and a blog and as we grew and our monthly dollar volume increased, we eventually popped up on the radar, and the transaction processor shut us down." said one of the company's owners.
The reason given for the shutdown was that the company was promoting cannabis on the website's blog, and that since cannabis leaves were next to products in their store, the processor wouldn't process transactions for them anymore.
For weeks the company was dead in the water, completely unable to do business. "If you are a business online and you can't accept credit cards, you cease to be a business." said one of the company's owners
Eventually they separated the blog and the store onto separate platforms, re-applied with a new processor, and are back in business, but only after overcoming a lot of unnecessary hurdles and headaches.
Native processors are scared to work with cannabis companies
When the anonymous company was scrambling to figure out what to do, they asked other companies for advice. Over and over they were told stories that were similar to what their own company had experienced.
Ultimately when cannabis companies sign up with a financial institution, whether that be a brick and mortar bank or an online credit card processor, companies agree to terms and conditions that state that the account can be shutdown at any time if it's determined that the account is tied to a cannabis company.
This is due to cannabis's prohibited status at the federal level. Financial institutions were already fearful of working with cannabis companies prior to Trump being elected, but went to a whole new level after anti-cannabis comments were made by members of Trump's administration.
According to an article in Inc, there was a massive purge by online transactions processors right around the time that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions started making disparaging comments about cannabis earlier this year:
"Dozens of companies selling ancillary products and services in the marijuana industry were purged from mainstream payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, and Square in January and February. Entrepreneurs say it happened at around the same time that the Trump White House suggested federal enforcement against recreational marijuana might be increased and after Attorney General Jeff Sessions described the legal marijuana industry as "violent.""
As indicated by the company that Green Flower talked to, the discrimination against companies, even those that are not tied to cultivation or distribution, was widespread.
A double standard for tobacco
The company that discussed the current issue with Green Flower pointed out that a big reason why they are able to continue their business model is because the products they sell can also be used for tobacco.
Tobacco is not federally prohibited, so financial institutions are fine processing transactions for their online store as long as the products are perceived to be for tobacco use.
No one has ever died from cannabis poisoning in the history of humankind. More than 480,000 people die annually in just the United States alone from tobacco products.
Cannabis has been proven to treat all types of conditions. Tobacco has no useful medical value whatsoever. So why is cannabis being targeted for discrimination by financial companies, yet tobacco is perfectly OK?
This is another example of 'the second phase of legalization.' Just because some states have legalized cannabis does not mean that the fight is over.
Even if every state in America legalized cannabis, if it is still illegal at the federal level, the stigma and discrimination that goes with it will continue to be perpetuated in this country.
Green Flower readers, and consumers and supporters everywhere, need to contact their elected officials in Congress and let them know that prohibition has failed, and that it is beyond time to clean up this mess.
If you want to learn more about cannabis and the industry that surrounds it, be sure to check out Green Flower's current line-up of free live classes!
Were you aware that ancillary cannabis companies are having their accounts shut down, even if they don't grow or sell cannabis?