Despite the skyrocketing profits being realized by America's legal cannabis industry, massive banking hurdles remain a reality as most financial institutions remain unwilling to take the nascent industry's money. Happily, according to federal data obtained by the Associated Press, that situation could be changing.
According to the AP chart shared by Marijuana Business Daily, the number of banking institutions willing to deal with legal cannabis businesses has skyrocketed from just 51 in March 2014, to 301 in March of 2016. Sounds good, right? To put things in perspective, that's 301 out of an estimated 13,000 such institutions: seventy percent of businesses that touched the plant reported that they still didn't have a bank account in an MBD survey last year. Ditto for 49 percent of ancillary firms.
Historically, most medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational shops have done their banking through local credit unions, leaving them with limited options, particularly when it comes to securing loans.
The banking woes are, however, slowly being ameliorated: the U.S. Treasury Department recently issued a series of instructions to help financial institutions cross every T and dot every I when it comes to dealing with marijuana businesses - and banks are developing a better understanding of how such businesses work, while still remaining vigilant for signs of criminal activity.
Banks and credit unions in Washington are now able to monitor the sales activity of licensed marijuana growers and processors online, including whether a business has even been found to be operating outside the law, enabling institutions to spot red flags more quickly.
"Some sanity has to be brought into this banking issue," said Beau Whitney, an industry economist in Portland told AP. "At some point in time, this is going to be an industry that's going to be too big to ignore."