Ask cannabis dispensary owners and other professionals involved in the medical marijuana industry to list their top pain points, and you’ll likely get a pretty standard answer: Government intervention, uncertainty over business taxes and….banking issues.
The last one is of particular concern to medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, which is currently the only state with an active for-profit MMJ model. Over the past year, most banks in the state have stopped doing business with MMJ dispensaries, growing operations and other companies directly involved with marijuana – closing their accounts and severing ties with them completely. Other financial institutions grandfathered some dispensaries in but have stopped accepting new accounts for cannabis companies.
The handful of banks that still allow medical marijuana businesses to open accounts do so on the down-low and on an extremely small scale, working only with MMJ individuals that they have a prior relationship with or are introduced to via trusted sources. Many dispensaries, therefore, are forced to move to a cash-only business or get a little creative with how they handle transactions, both of which carry a fair amount of risks.
With that as the backdrop, the Medical Marijuana Business Alliance – a trade group for Colorado MMJ businesses – and the National Cannabis Industry Association are hosting a panel discussion tomorrow on the banking dilemma for dispensaries and growers.
It comes at an ideal time. Colorado’s Senate Finance Committee is set to debate a bill today calling for the creation of a financial institution that would work specifically with the state’s medical marijuana industry and cannabis patients. The “financial cooperative” would operate like a credit union, though its initial services would be limited to deposits and withdrawals.
Tomorrow’s discussion, which is part of the MMBA’s monthly networking meeting, will feature Shawn Coleman, who was the public face of the last Colorado bank that actively courted dispensaries before it cut off ties with the industry last summer; Lance Ott of Guardian Data Systems; and Andy Schultheiss with the Office of U.S. Representative Jared Polis.
The event starts at 6 p.m. with networking, followed by the panel discussion between 7:30 and 9 p.m., and will be held at Casselman’s Bar & Venure, located at 2620 Walnut St. in Denver. It is open to all professionals in the cannabis industry and is a free gathering (you can RSVP here).
As always, the MMBA recommends that participants submit questions in advance through its website.