There is a wide variety of challenges facing today’s cannabis entrepreneurs. Unfortunately filing forms, complying with state and local regulations, and mounds of paperwork are only the first hurdles.
Due to heavy restrictions on the industry, cannabusinesses don’t have the option to operate in the same way other businesses can. These are two prime examples of technical issues facing new businesses, and some of the legal solutions available to them:
1) You can’t use targeted digital advertising like Facebook or Google Adwords.
Targeted ads are incredibly useful for reaching new customers, but promoting cannabis products is against the policy of the major targeted digital advertising companies like Facebook and Twitter. As stated in the Facebook advertising guidelines:
“Ads must not constitute, facilitate, or promote illegal products, services or activities.” and “Ads must not promote the sale or use of … Illegal, prescription, or recreational drugs, Tobacco products and related paraphernalia … as determined by Facebook in its sole discretion;”
Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and Bing have very similar wording in their policies, and seem to all be taking the same stance.
Even though medical and recreational cannabis might be legal in some states, they have decided to ignore local acceptance and instead focus on the Federal Schedule 1 status.
As if that wasn’t enough, Instagram and Facebook have decided to go a step further by removing pages of cannabis related businesses. Facebook has even been accused of deleting the personal profiles of those running these “questionable” pages!
As Facebook spokesman Tim Rathschmidt explained to the Huffington Post, “The legality around the sale and use of marijuana greatly varies around the world, which is part of the reason why we strictly prohibit the promotion of the sale and use of the drug itself… However, we work pretty hard to differentiate ads promoting the sale or use of the drug versus ads promoting advocacy or the legalization of the drug. The latter is the type of content we do not want to censor through ads, and is widely considered different than something promoting the actual drug itself.”
Solving the Problem
So what options does this leave you with? Luckily there is hope!
A growing list of companies are offering targeted digital advertising solutions that are meant to fill the gap for cannabis companies in targeted advertising. Here are a few of the options available:
Boasting a reach of over 10 million marijuana enthusiasts per month, Mantis is one of the largest digital advertising networks around. You can target users based on Geo-Location, Demographic, Device or Keyword, giving you the ability to hone in on your target market.
Marketing themselves as “the advertising network for alternative lifestyle brands”, 420 Network offers both CPC and fixed price advertising options. Utilizing these services means that even companies with small advertising budgets can see a huge benefit from their marketing efforts without having to spend a fortune.
2) Banking options are extremely limited
One of the biggest pitfalls of opening a cannabis business is the strict banking regulations. Large banking institutions are refusing to touch cannabis industry cash over fear of being indicted on money laundering charges under the Bank Secrecy Act.
While there have been some guidelines created by FinCEN (the bureau that was created to battle money laundering) to offer banking institutions the ability to serve the cannabis industry, this remains a massive grey area.
Even if a cannabusiness does find a banking institution willing to accept their legal tender, they can face monthly fees up to $1000 or more just to store their hard earned cash. These high fees are a direct result of the increased oversight that FinCEN requires of banking institutions that do business with cannabis companies.
Solving the Problem
So what legal options does the exploding cannabis industry have to stash their cash? Sadly, it depends on the state in which you do business, and can vary wildly.
If you live in Oregon, you are somewhat in luck! Maps Credit Union in the Oregon capital of Salem is the major player in the Oregon canna-banking game. Maps has been doing business with licensed cannabis companies since 2014, and has created a set of standards for dealing with the cannabis industry cash.
Additionally, the Oregon House has recently passed House Bill 4094, which removes all criminal penalties for banks and credit unions that do business with cannabis companies operating within the state’s laws. Hopefully this move will open the door for more states to adopt similar regulations, allowing further legitimacy for law abiding cannabis companies and paving the way for Federal Regulators.
In the state of Washington, only two banks (Spokane Valley-based Numerica and Seattle-based Salal Credit Union) have come forward and publicly stated that they will work with cannabis companies. Unofficially there are more institutions that provide banking services, but they have taken great steps to keep their names out of the limelight.
If you do business in Colorado, you are unfortunately forced into a corner. Colorado business owners either end up lying to their banker about the exact nature of their business, or find a banker who is willing to turn a blind eye (or at the very least not ask questions).
So far, no Colorado banking institutions have publicly come forward to state their acceptance of cannabis currency. They do exist, but finding an institution that will take your money is going to require making a number of calls, and most likely getting a lot of denials.
Times are rough for cannabis businesses in the digital age, but they are only getting better. Understanding the technical obstacles in the industry is the first step to overcoming them, and our team at KindTyme is here to help! If you have any questions about web advertising, banking, or other restrictions as a cannabis business, feel free to reach out to us.