The legal marijuana industry faces a series of challenges, but chief among them right now is the inability of banks to loan money for businesses in the fast-growing industry.
About half the states have legalized marijuana for medical use and four more have done so for recreational use. However, cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I illegal drug by the federal government. This ties the hands of banks who fear loaning money to cannabis businesses could lead to action against them by the federal government. Thus leaving a void for cannabis banking solutions.
This leads to issues for dispensaries, which still have to operate on a cash-only basis. That in turn makes it harder to track sales both to balance the books and for tax purposes.
“There’s still a great stigma in the banking community around marijuana. It’s palatable,” Jeff Foster, co-founder of software company Jane, told Business Insider.
But Foster hopes Jane will solve that issue.
Cannabis Banking: Helping Customers and Dispensaries
Jane, which has its operations based in Denver, has created a kind of reverse ATM machine for use in dispensaries. Remember, Colorado is one of the states that has legalized marijuana sales for both medicinal and recreational use.
It works this way: the Jane kiosk is available inside the dispensary. Using a touch screen, customers can make their order. They then put cash into the machine for payment and are issued a receipt which is used to pick up their order. The cash is stored in the machine.
In addition to cutting down on customer wait time, this also provides the dispensary with a method to track all sales.
Jane’s kiosks also handles the problem of shrinkage, an issue for all retailers who work primarily with cash. The term refers to the loss of inventory because of the difference between what is recorded as being sold and what is actually there.
Retailers lose more than $45 billion a year because of shrinkage, according to numbers from the National Retail Federation. Foster estimates dispensaries may lose as much as 6 percent of sales to shrinkage.
Banks and the Marijuana Industry
While Jane seeks to find a solution for dispensaries with its kiosks and related software, there is hope that the U.S. Congress might change current law. This would allow marijuana-related businesses to enjoy full backing from banks around cannabis banking.
In June, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to allow banks for handle cash from cannabis-related industries. The bill, sponsored by senators from Oregon and Washington, essentially makes it illegal for the federal government to penalize a bank for dealing with cannabis businesses.
However, a similar bill that passed in 2015 never made it to the House floor for debate. This was while another bill in 2013 passed the House but was killed in the Senate, according to the Denver Post.
However, marijuana industry proponents are hopeful that this time things will be different. This is particularly in light of the billions of dollars that marijuana sales are bringing into Colorado and other states.
Foster expects that eventually the rules will change. But he doesn’t think it will happen quickly. This was while telling the Business Insider that banks are “the most conservative organizations in the world. They detest grey area.”