Why do we need cannabis banking- Women Grow

Why do we need cannabis banking? (Women Grow)

Westword, a Denver local, published an interview Friday with Representative Ed Perlmutter. The Democratic congressman from Colorado told the magazine why the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act hasn’t moved in months,

“The Senate is currently pursuing comprehensive cannabis reform legislation, which is important to ensure true social and economic justice is achieved following the War on Drugs. However, there is a serious public-safety threat that exists in our communities that we cannot wait to address, which is why SAFE Banking needs to move now.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter

As Senate leadership moves forward with its Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act draft, the cannabis banking bill sits in committee. After passing in the House in April, the SAFE Banking Act was introduced in the Senate and assigned to the banking committee chaired by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

Brown never responded to calls by the senate co-sponsors in June to schedule markup of the bill. Now the House is pushing, as well, and getting similar results. Until the Banking Committee acts, cannabis banking can’t get a floor vote.

In the meantime, Profiles in Legalization continues with its series on the need for banking reform.

For the second part of “Why do we need cannabis banking?” we wanted to hear the female perspective. Who better to ask than a group founded to support female cannabis entrepreneurs?

Women Grow was founded in 2014 by early cannabis industry pioneers Jane West, Jazmin Hupp and Julie Batkiewicz. All three have since moved on, but the group continues in its mission. That mission, as stated on its website, is “to connect, educate, inspire and empower the next generation of cannabis industry leaders by creating programs, community and events for aspiring and current business executives.”

The future is, indeed, female and it’s also cannabis-infused. We asked three cannabis executives to tell us more.

Profiles in Legalization asked cannabis community leaders for their thoughts on the need for cannabis banking. This article is the second in a series based on their responses. All quotes are from email.

Click here to see all SAFE Banking Act of 2021 coverage.

Gia Moron, GVM Communications

“The lack of access to capital through institutions like banking is acutely felt by women and BIPOC entrepreneurs, even more so in cannabis, as racism, sexism, and stigma still inform legislation and policy.”

Gia Morón, CEO, GVM Communications
Gia Morón, CEO, GVM Communications

Gia Morón founded GVM Communications in 2012. The public relations firm bills itself as a team of “Great Visions and Minds” for forward-thinking businesses. GVM followed its progressive ethos into the legal cannabis industry in 2015. Within two years, Morón was Women Grow’s new president.

“Women in the cannabis industry specifically continue to face challenges,” Morón told Profiles in Legalization, “in part due to a lack of access to capital compared to their male counterparts.”

Morón says banking reform is essential for the industry’s survival. Cannabis prohibition is stifling growth.

“Financial institutions are still leary to work with cannabis clients,” says Morón, “although a viable industry is being created.”

Recent cannabis reforms focused on social equity in the industry. States like New Jersey and Connecticut have highlighted righting the wrongs of the Drug War. According to Morón, lack of cannabis banking is undercutting that goal.

“The result is the under-representation of women and BIPOC we see throughout,” Morón says, “in ownership, c-suites, and board seats to embody their full potential in this industry.”

Chanda Macias, Ilera Holistic Healthcare

“Making banking services accessible to cannabis businesses would make cannabis medicine more accessible to cannabis patients, which is my mission.”

Dr Chanda Macias, CEO, Ilera Holistic Healthcare
Dr Chanda Macias, CEO, Ilera Holistic Healthcare

When Louisiana passed medical cannabis laws in 2016, they created a unique and restrictive system. Chanda Macias was ready for it.

Under the Alison Neustrom Act, medical cannabis cultivation licenses went to two Louisiana state colleges. The institutions would oversee subcontractors for cultivation. Each could choose a single company to grow their medical cannabis. Southern University chose Ilera Holistic Healthcare, the company Macias leads.

Cannabis companies have needs similar to any other business, Macias told us.

“Think of how any other industry uses banking services,” says Macias. “All of those services are inaccessible to the legal cannabis industry, even though we are state-licensed and more regulated than almost any other industry.”

Though some efforts at social equity seem performative, Macias is helping Louisiana live up to the ideal. Ilera’s website mentions that Southern University is the first historically black university to enter the legal cannabis space. It seems fitting that a woman with a doctorate from Howard University, a revered HBCU, should also lead.

Before joining the cannabis industry, Macias spent over a decade at Howard, most recently as the Director of S.T.E.M. Education. She left to lead National Holistic Healing Center, a cannabis dispensary, in nearby D.C.

Academia’s loss was definitely cannabis consumers’ gain. Macias continues to fight for equity in reform. She’s served as Women Grow’s chief executive and board chairwoman since 2018.

“[Banking prohibition] especially impacts retail businesses,” Macias told us, “which can’t offer their customers the convenience and security of credit and debit card payments.”

It’s about more than just convenience, though. The high medical costs of cannabinoid therapy aren’t lost on the CEO.

“It puts an unfair burden not only on the businesses, but on their customers,” says Macias, “especially those who may not be able to afford their medicine on a cash-only basis.”

Vanessa Gabriel, Drop Delivery

“Prohibition impacts what we are able to design and bring to market, and creates a fragmentation in the way our clients have to do business.”

Vanessa Gabriel, CEO, Drop Delivery
Vanessa Gabriel, CEO, Drop Delivery

Vanessa Gabriel is the CEO and co-founder of Drop Delivery, a technology company serving cannabis businesses that deliver. According to its website, the company’s branded app software helps businesses take control “from delivery logistics to powerful marketing and inventory management.”

Gabriel sees the technology potentials for cannabis businesses.

“In the tech world,” says Gabriel, “legalization and banking would bring about huge innovation.”

Drop Delivery provides software solutions in four legal cannabis states and the District of Columbia so far, not to mention Canada. It’s easy to see how banking could expand such a scalable business in a growing industry.

“The lack of banking services,” Gabriel told us, “is the biggest obstacle to the cannabis industry harnessing the full power of other sectors like technology and capital and having them work together seamlessly.”