KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Through the turmoil in Washington D.C., Congress is still taking the very early steps to normalize the cannabis industry by introducing the SAFER Banking Act in a Senate Committee.
The first medical marijuana became available roughly 30 years ago, and yet cannabis companies in the 2020’s are still running into issues finding a place to put the money they earn in a growing and increasingly legal industry.
“The first bank we were in, they decided to get out of the business so we had to find another one,” said BesaMe Wellness CFO Tom Elafros. “We were in it three, four months and had to find another one.”
That’s not a problem Elafros had ever run into before in any of his other businesses in a long list of other industries.
Lawmakers have advised financial institutions in the past that cannabis companies need banking partners, but many banks still won’t take their business because marijuana is still illegal on the federal level.
There’s some hope that if cannabis is eventually rescheduled as a less serious drug, that could change, but in the meantime, it’s made the growing cannabis industry a mostly-cash market.
“We’ve been forced to deal with cash and that really becomes a safety issue,” said Elafros.
That means spending a lot of money on security infrastructure, like vaults, security guards, transportation companies and makes consumers essentially raid ATM’s before going to dispensaries.
Since the SAFER Banking Act was just introduced, it will still be a while before it could be eventually passed and enacted, but Elafros says it’s still part of the growing effort to remove the stigma from the cannabis industry.
“I think it all helps,” Elafros said. “We’ve had employees who had to close bank accounts because the banks found out they’re employees of a cannabis company and they can’t open an account. We’ve seen that with a paycheck.”