NORML Credit Card Woes
One of the biggest challenges facing marijuana companies is how to handle financial transactions. Since cannabis is illegal at the federal level, many banks don’t want to do business with dispensaries and other cannabis companies. Major credit card companies have often done the same thing.
And now, these challenges are beginning to affect non-profit organizations as well.
The well-known pot advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) just reported that its account with a financial services corporation was abruptly terminated.
“Without advance notice, NORML was notified by registered mail this past week that the company that processes our debit and credit card donations, TransFirst, had decided . . . that we no longer qualify as a client” said NORML founder Keith Stroup.
He said that TransFirst made the decision after somebody at the corporation reviewed NORML’s website.
TransFirst said it cancelled NORML’s account because it was part of the “marijuana industry.”
The move has put NORML into a bind since it relies heavily on donations made on its website.
Without a company to process donations made with credit or debit cards, NORML is currently unable to receive much needed funding.
It’s common knowledge that cannabis companies regularly deal with this problem. But Stroup said NORML is fundamentally different from a cannabis company.
“Our advocacy is First Amendment-protected activity,” he explained.
“We are denied the same business services routinely provided to tens of thousands of other non-profits . . . simply because we have a website that promotes the legalization of marijuana.”
For now, NORML said it will look for another company to handle its donations.
But Stroup pointed out that larger questions remain. These questions have to do with how the legal marijuana industry will handle finances.
Over the past year or so, a number of tech companies have tried to solve the problem.
One tech firm has tried to use Bitcoin to create permanent, third-party records of everything a dispensary sells. Another one has invented special kiosks that would handle all transactions.
And still another tech company has come up with an app that “geo-locates” every single purchase made at a dispensary. The idea would be to compile a thorough record of every single product that goes through a shop.
When it comes to the legal side of things, a group of lawmakers has proposed The Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act. This bill would give legal marijuana companies protected access to banks.