CEO Predicts Cannabis Industry Can Bank Legally By Christmas

Forbes [October 14, 2018]

One of the biggest issues currently facing the cannabis industry is the lack of legal access to banking. Cannabis companies such as dispensaries are currently being creative with cash-only businesses or using cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, to skirt around current federal regulations which bar them from banking. However, if Canopy Growth’s CEO Bruce Linton is to be believed, that issue may be rectified as early as January of 2019, when according to him, canna-businesses will be able to begin to bank legally. Linton calls the unprecedented, upcoming move “a Christmas present,” to the cannabis industry.

Speaking to a handful of participants at a cannabis conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica two weeks ago, a jeans and T-shirt wearing, affable Linton expressed confidence that the banking issue would be worked out in the coming months.

Linton initially alluded to a first of the year development. Later in his presentation, he mentioned that he expected a major development pertaining to banks and their ability to move money by Christmas.

Recent developments with Bank of America (BOA) point in that direction as well. Linton also casually admitted that several banks have made overtures towards his company with attempts to incentivize him to switch banks.

With pot prohibition ending in Canada in a few more days on October 17, the country’s Scotia Bank will allow legal cannabis banking. Scotia Bank, whose branches are also prevalent in Jamaica, partners with Bank of America. Funds deposited in Scotia Bank are available for withdrawal at Bank of America’s ATM machines and teller windows and vice versa with a Scotia Bank ATM card.

While the small audience watched a white-washed, non-diversified video commercial for Canopy Growth (the very few white women who appear in the marketing movie appear to be cannabis pickers or factory workers, not executives), which received a smattering of polite applause, not everyone was enthusiastic.

YouTube user Major Twang commented, “Poor Linton, pumping his design [sic]-to-fail-Gamma-irradiated-burnt-terpenes-junk-weed to an empty audience.”

Perhaps because his keynote was sparsely attended, his banking Easter egg flew under the radar. Meanwhile, Linton seemed happy just for the free trip to Jamaica.

Major Twang went on to say that Linton is “Out-of-touch with the cannabis culture,” which does not appear to concern him in the slightest. While relaying a conversation he overheard at the expo about corporate social responsibility, Linton seems slightly annoyed.

Linton admits, while his viewpoint might be inappropriate, “Corporations do not have a behavior, they have a purpose and that purpose is to make money.” However, he points out that purchasing ancillary items locally, even if the prices are slightly higher–starting with port-a-potties for groundbreaking construction sites– stimulates the local economy. Buying locally subsequently accomplishes a mutually beneficial, if not necessarily altruistic purpose.

Linton admits he is “nuts about” his port-a-potty theory, and views it as the cornerstone of local economic stimulation. He insists it creates a snowball effect. “We have almost two thousand employees and they all know what the rules are about renting port-a-potties locally,” he insists.

His theory is if he wants to hire Ph.D.s in a local town, he has to purchase port-a-potties for his construction sites locally, so that the port-a-potty vendor will take his new-found extra income and go out for dinner more often, which will, in turn, create better restaurants, then the local car dealerships will improve. Next, the houses will transition, so that when his Ph.D. hires begin to work there, they won’t say, “God, what an awful town.”

Linton’s pregnant pause after explaining his gentrification ideals was unsurprisingly met with stunned, stony silence from the audience and incredulous side-eye from the few Jamaicans in attendance. (Perhaps decent restaurants were there, to begin with; however, an entitled person might not be able to discover them, if they are off the beaten path.) Meanwhile, there are plenty of emerging cannabis companies, that actively embrace corporate social responsibility, such as Papa & Barkley.

Port-a-potties and tone-deaf remarks along the lines of Trump’s “sh–hole countries,” aside, Linton expressed confidence that since his cannabis company infiltrated the New York Stock Exchange –although they were not allowed to ring or even touch the opening bell– that banking will naturally follow suit.

Linton elucidates that being listed on the exchange validates the company’s adherence to anti-money laundering rules, which in turn meant that about a month ago, Bank of America could lend Constellation Brands Inc. -the company behind Corona beer -about CAD five million to give to him. Canopy Growth’s game-changing deal with the producers of Corona has more than doubled the pot producer’s stock price. Linton, however, attributes Canopy’s sky-high valuation to the global medical marijuana market.

Either way, Linton is confident that this sequence of events provides enough “momentum and weight to cause the banking conundrum to be resolved soon.”

He also noted that while 22 countries want to export medical marijuana, only two countries so far, Brazil and Poland, want to import it. That is not necessarily true. Germany imports it from Canopy Growth’s competitor, Cronos Group. Hopefully, Linton’s insider remarks about banking are more accurate than his comments on cannabis importation.

If banking for the cannabis industry occurs by next quarter, it will probably be attributable to financial institutions wanting to cash in on the massive global profits marijuana money has to offer, and not singlehandedly due to Canopy Growth’s allure.

“I am not saying that everybody will benefit instantly, but there will be nobody who doesn’t benefit subsequently,” says Linton.

Christmas is just around the corner.

Sara Brittany Somerset

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