The biggest challenge for a marijuana company? Too much cash.
By law, customers can’t use credit cards to buy marijuana, and banks won’t open accounts for cannabusinesses because they are federally illegal. For the most part, customers pay with cash, stores compensate employees and pay suppliers with stacks of cash, and farmers pay for their utilities and lawyers with bundles of cash.
Entrepreneurs Keith Marks and Kenneth Berke, both California attorneys, have come up with a financial technology solution — a “closed loop” payment system that allows businesses to pay bills and collect payments electronically. It’s like the PayPal of Pot. Store owners, processors, and growers can take money out of their bank accounts and put it in the PayQwick system which will send invoices, transfer money electronically and write checks for payments. Then they can transfer money out of PayQwick and back into their bank accounts.
PayQwick can offer this service by taking on the legal financial compliance role. The company is vetting the finances of legal marijuana businesses, visiting quarterly to make sure the marijuana companies are complying with state regulations, and following the funds from seed to sale as required by law. The company performs Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering compliance, know-your-customer and transaction due diligence, and files currency transaction and suspicious activity reports.
Once the compliance regulations are met, marijuana money is considered “bankable” according to Berke. “We’re a cash management solution.”
The founders have worked with marijuana and banking regulators in Washington, Oregon and Colorado to register federally as a money service business, and obtain a state-issued money transmitter license in each state where one is required. As marijuana is legalized in more states, the company plans to enter any market where seed to sale traceability is available.