Finding a Place for Cannabis Cash
Shaun Gindi brought a duffel bag stuffed with a thousand $20 bills to open a checking account at his local Chase branch. The bank closed his account after a week. As the owner of two marijuana shops and a weed warehouse in Colorado, where the drug is legal, Gindi is a pariah to banks, which face expensive compliance hurdles and uncertain legal consequences because the marijuana business still violates federal law. Of the more than 7,600 banks and credit unions in the U.S., only about 220 accept cannabis cash, according to the Department of the Treasury. “I’ve gone through at least eight banks,” Gindi says.
Anthony Rivera Jr., a Harvard Business School graduate who led the 1,940 members of the Acjachemen Nation in Southern California for almost a decade, says he has a solution: an American Indian banking system. His organization, CannaNative, is trying to link tribal leaders from the 566 sovereign Indian nations, which aren’t subject to U.S. banking laws, with finance professionals and legal marijuana businesses. The goal is to use the expertise gained from decades of managing casinos to create banks or credit unions to tap a market the big banks won’t touch—the legal pot industry’s estimated $3 billion in annual revenue. “The Indian casinos are basically small little banks,” Rivera says. “They receive deposits in the form of gaming, and they manage that cash in a way which is highly regulated.”