Photo Credit: Hyoung Chang

Quest for Cannabis

Imagining of what it’s like to be a cannabis banker

What a strange time to be a bank. As a trusted institution, you want to support your friends peddling an amazing life changing medicine locally, but federally it’s been written off as black magic sure to destroy the fabric of our society. On one hand, you’ve banked these entrepreneurs in other “mainstream” ventures and trust them as true professionals. On the other hand, they are now snake oil salesmen on a golden path you surely cannot navigate.

You start hearing of some financial institutions so brave or so greedy they dared to hold their breath and step out into the fog of the cannabis industry. These are but whispers in the wind as everyone in this industry has NDA invisibility cloaks shielding them from prying eyes. You decide you’re up for the challenge, destination unknown but it doesn’t matter because the map will be made as you go and all normal compasses don’t work anyway.

So to prepare for this journey you make every effort at due diligence on these renegade merchants, but even after manually collecting and reviewing a digital forest worth of licensing and regulatory compliance paperwork it still feels like there’s something missing.

In a nightmarish epiphany you realize the shear weight of all that beautiful cash will surely crush all your dreams. You start to view your adventurous merchant guides as back-stabbing conniving drug dealers that must be controlled at all costs (their cost of course). On second thought, you decide it’s best to just hang back in the comfort of your office and provide a thin lifeline as long as the skies are blue and you’re informed of every single step on their perilous journey.

Then the bags of cash start pilling up! Where did this money come from?Who’s dirty hands have been infecting these deposits? How many people died to get these notes in your front door? Take a breath… you know state regulations track the product from seed to sale but wait!… they really only track seed to dispensary… the actual sale is still a mystery and the paper trail is a lot like cracking open a fortune cookie and hoping it comes true.

Eventually, the fed steps in and puts you out of your misery. To save face the board quickly points to your constant reckless behavior and with one sharp email you cut the lifeline. Your brave explorers now have 30 days to figure out how to hoard hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are resilient and have been here before so you know they’ll be OK. Unfortunately, you know this systematic un-banking creates even more cloak and dagger challenges for the next bank brave or greedy enough to shake hands with the future. Reluctantly sinking back into your office chair resolve to stay under the radar and begin again to punch the clock of the mundane as you daydream of a time when you can feel the excitement and innovation only a global prohibitive industry can provide.

Closing thought: Legitimate banking services and sales transparency are going to be the foundation for lifting us out of this prohibition. To the dreamer banks; I hope you all find your way in this risk-laden industry. It’s going to take everyone’s combined trust and efforts to shake off the 60-year stigma suppressing an otherwise magical plant.

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