Cannabis Finance


Apr 06, 2019



Apr 06, 2019



Legalization of cannabis has been gaining steam in the U.S., with ten states and Washington D.C. having passed full legalization. Moreover, 33 states have legalized comprehensive medical cannabis programs. The fledgling market now exceeds $10b in annual sales.

Despite the rising tide, access to traditional banking services remains a bottleneck on the industry. Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 illegal substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. As a result, banks and payment processors are unwilling to work with cannabis businesses due to fears of violating federal money laundering and substance regulations.

The industry continues to operate on cash – creating numerous security and logistical headaches for businesses in the space.

However, new legislation has been proposed in Congress that might alleviate the pain. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act would provide safe harbor to banks working with cannabis businesses that are legal on the state level. While the bill seemingly has broad support from regulators, law enforcement, and financial institutions, it will have to survive a lengthy legislative process in order to truly change the market.

Should the regulation pass, there could be a renewed surge in the nascent industry. You can be sure the cannabis businesses will be pleading their case with lawmakers…

Portfolio News

Aaron Schumm is in the catbird seat after biggest cat in the Wall Street jungle validates Vestwell - Excellent write-up by RiaBiz on Vestwell's latest $30m Series B which saw Goldman Sach's seeking out the startup for investment as the investment bank looks to make the RIA channel a market and get exposure to tech that is radically changing the way we invest. Read more

Goldman Sachs backs retirement technology platform Vestwell - Congratulations to portfolio company Vestwell on raising its $30m Series B. The round was led by Goldman Sachs and joined by Point72 Ventures, Nationwide, Allianz Life Ventures, BNY Mellon, Franklin Templeton, FinTech Collective, F-Prime Capital, Primary Venture Partners, and Commerce Ventures. Read more

Biggest challenge in CRE: the abundance of data - Rich Sarkis, CEO of portfolio company Reonomy, joined other machine learning experts on stage last week at CRETech. Rich revealed how machine learning has been used by the company to stitch together data and scale their platform. Read more

Cannabis Finance

Cannabis banking reform is smart, necessary and politically viable - Pressure is steadily mounting on U.S. lawmakers to implement comprehensive cannabis banking reform at the federal level, and as Techcrunch report, that pressure is coming from all directions. Read more

Industry News

Bitcoin, BlackRock and the rise of alternatives - With the race-to-the-bottom in beta products playing out, BlackRock is reorganizing itself with an emphasis on higher-fee alternative assets. Some recent hires indicate that Bitcoin may be considered as an avenue for further developing their presence in alternative assets. Read more

Schwab switching to subscription-based financial planning - Schwab Intelligent Advisory, which includes unlimited guidance from a CFP and an in-depth financial plan, will charge customers $300 upfront plus $30 monthly subscription fee - moving away from the current model of 0.28% of assets. Read more

The SEC’s token investment framework - Although nothing is really "new" regarding this weeks SEC statement about whether or not an offered digital asset qualifies as a security, The Block has pulled some interesting snippets regarding Active Participants and important considerations. Read more

What's the new weapon against money laundering gangsters? The BBC reviews how banks and regulators are leveraging AI to combat money laundering. Estimates suggest that not even 1% of criminal funds flowing through the international financial system is confiscated - highlighting both the dire need and opportunity for technology in the space. Read more

Lyft wants to offer financial services to drivers - Hoping to retain more drivers, Lyft has announced a series of financial services for its freelancers - incuding no-fee bank accounts, debit cards, vehicle maintenance, and deals on rental cars. Read more

Good deep dive on how the new Apple credit card works - TechCrunch does a good job here of going beyond the basics, and answering some of the more detailed questions about how some e.g. the virtual card aspect of the card, works. Read more

Digital bank Tandem starts fundraising talks - Tandem bank, which has around 600,000 customers, said it was in the early stages of talks to secure an investment in the next three months, which was likely to be larger than the £80m raised when it took over Harrods Bank last year. Read more

BBVA loan links interest rate to digital milestones - BBVA has sold a $350m revolving credit facility to Singapore-based Olam International whose interest rate will decline as the borrower makes progress against a set of 32 digital business milestones. Read more

Bank runs in the digital era - What happens to bank runs when banks, like everything else, become websites. The FT digs in to a report on how those risks might become more acute with the onset of Open Banking. Read more

Why Mastercard is funding the next generation of cryptographers through Girls4Tech - Mastercard is overseeing a project geared at getting middle-schoolers to learn how to code and understand cryptography, with a focus on reaching 300k girls by the end of the year where there is the biggest shortfall. Read more

Jamie Dimon: Cybersecurity threats may be the 'biggest threat to the U.S. financial system' - Dimon noted that JPM spends nearly $600m per annum on cybersecurity and employs 3k dedicated to the efforts. He also noted that issues around privacy are "real" and that the bank is constantly working to protect consumer data. Read more

Select Financings

Affirm - San Francisco based ecommerce and POS lender has raised $300m in Series F capital from Thrive. Read more

Bill.com - Palo Alto based business payment software company has raised $88m in venture funding led by Franklin Templeton at a valuation of more than $1bn. Read more

Landed - San Francisco down payment lender has raised $7.5m Series A capital led by Initialized Capital. Read more

Pagaya - Tel Aviv based AI for the asset management industry has raised $25m in Series C funding led Oak HC/FT. Read more

TransferWise - One of Europe’s best-funded financial technology firms, is seeking to raise up to $300 million, which would value the company at around $4 billion. Read more


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