Cannabis Banking, Are We There Yet? Meaka Brown Responds
The cannabis industry has been waiting, on bated breath, for the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. This proposed legislation is a promise of financial freedom as it would finally enable cannabis businesses to access mainstream financial services, and at an affordable price. Unfortunately and in spite of massive widespread support for the SAFE Banking Act legislation, it failed to pass in Congress.
The current picture is that of an industry that is largely unbanked and hence has to rely on cash transactions. This has led to an upsurge of pot shop robberies that result in huge financial losses. An underbanked industry also means that canna-businesses are not able to access capital and credit affordably. This makes it difficult to leverage credit that can be used to scale operations and also bumps the cost of doing business. Such is the conundrum that seems to be holding the cannabis industry back from moving to the next level. But though the picture looks bleak, Meaka Brown revealed that there’s more than meets the eye.
Meaka is a cannabis banking regulatory specialist at Green Check Verified. She was recently appointed to the newly formed Cannabis Social Equity Fund Advisory Board in Massachusetts. Previously, she has served as a City of Boston Constable. Meaka has lived most of her life in an ADI, Area Disproportionately Impacted by the War on Drugs. Interestingly and contrary to mainstream perception she believes that's there’s sufficient banking services that are accessible to the cannabis industry, and at competitive rates.
My Cannabis: Is the cannabis industry “impossible” to bank without the SAFE Banking Act?
Meaka: People who should know better, think that cannabis is impossible to bank. They aren't aware that banking options exist, and they are more readily available than there used to be 4 years ago. For Instance, in M.A., if you ask people, “Who banks cannabis?” you’d hear one or maybe two names. On the flip side, I know that there are at least ten banks who work with cannabis-related businesses here. So, when people meet me and discover how Green Check Verified connects cannabis-related businesses to banks and financial services, it’s like a revelation.
My Cannabis: There are still a significant number of cash robberies that are taking place to date, implying that a large number of cannabis businesses are still operating on a cash basis. If this is the case, why aren’t most people able to access decent baking services?
Meaka: My takeaways from the conversations I have with cannabis-related businesses is that most don’t know the true number of banks open to working with them, and that some of those banks are in fact offering loans and other banking products and services. Banks don't openly advertise their cannabis banking programs, and it feels like everything is still on the hush hush, and you “need to know a guy or gal” to get serviced. This is where we are currently, and what we at Green Check Verified are continuously working to improve.
My Cannabis: What should be done to improve access to baking services in the cannabis industry?
Meaka: I applaud the banks that looked beyond the risks and stigmas of banking cannabis money, and have put in the proper work necessary to offer banking access to cannabis-related businesses. However, I have two asks for the future of cannabis banking.
First, I urge more banks to consider banking cannabis dollars and to create a more fair and equitable marketplace by considering reducing their exorbitant fees. It’s not sustainable.
Second, I advise cannabis business owners to spend more time shopping around. There are excellent programs out there, you just might haven't met the right guy or gal yet.
Oh, and we can’t forget, call Mitch McConnell and urge him to pass SAFE+. The stalemate must end.
Green Check Verified is a company that was established in 2017 with the goal of offering technological solutions that will allow financial institutions to safely and successfully offer services to the legal cannabis industry. It was an honor to have these insightful comments from Meaka Brown regarding banking the cannabis industry. Readers who wish to keep up with how Green Check Verified is transforming the cannabis banking sector are welcome to visit their website.