Accountability is key to cannabis lending
Data collection and compliance audits help credit unions deal with high-risk businesses.
Tony Gallo, managing partner of the Dallas-based Sapphire Risk Advisory Group, has been involved with retail businesses for more than 30 years and the cannabis industry for the last four. He suggests that financial institutions deal with cannabis businesses as they would any other high-risk business, such as those selling liquor, jewelry, firearms and tobacco.
“There are lots of similarities with the Big Four,” he points out. As with them, credit unions should look into their cash management strategy before opening depository accounts for a cannabis business. It’s especially important to understand what mechanisms they have in place for security. How are they transporting cash? In addition, have they had any robberies or internal theft problems? Are they following all the rules set by the state? Are they following best security practices?
Most states that allow cannabis use for any purpose (see map of states and what they allow) have applications to run a related business that require completing several hundred pages of paperwork. Just the security section of the application may be 40-60 pages. Looking at a business’s application gives a credit union a very good snapshot of that enterprise. Gallo’s company’s Texas security application section for pot businesses is about 50 pages long. “You have to be much more involved in your cannabis security planning than most businesses,” he says.
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