If you ever open a cannabis business, you will have this meeting: Some really big guys will contact you about your cash problem. A cash problem only they could solve. It will require unmarked, bullet-proof vans, guns, more big guys, and some special relationships with government officials. At one point, when you ask how they get the money through a specific checkpoint, one of them will reply, “We know a guy.”
A little shaken from the mafia-like meeting, you might research why it is difficult for cannabis businesses to get typical merchant services, like the ability to wire payroll or write checks. As you research, here’s a much-simplified version of what you will learn:
Cannabis is illegal on the federal level and, by and large, it is federal regulators who oversee banks, even if they are chartered by the state. In particular, the Bank Secrecy Act and the Controlled Substances Act make it a felony to knowingly launder money from the sale of cannabis. Most banks are scared to touch the money, for risk of losing their charter or even opening themselves up for criminal prosecution.
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