The Ideal Tech Stack in Cannabis - Banking, Payments and Accounting

Cannabis
May 9, 2022
Rachel Ludwig

Despite roadblocks at the federal level, it’s no secret that the cannabis industry is rapidly expanding. Analysts predict that in 2022, U.S. marijuana retailers are expected to reap $32 billion in annual sales - a 20% increase from 2021. This incredible growth begs the question: is your dispensary’s tech stack able to scale with the industry? 

As sales climb year over year, cannabis retailers must make smart business decisions to stay competitive in the market. That advantage can largely be determined by the tools and features businesses utilize to run their day-to-day operations. The right solutions stack will ensure that new and established dispensaries are ready to scale with the market while remaining compliant with the current federal regulations. Also, the business’s tech stack should benefit customers by providing mainstream shopping experiences, which ultimately drive customer loyalty. 

Fortunately, these services are widely available and tailored to meet the specific needs of the cannabis industry. For the past few years, companies such as Aeropay have partnered up with cannabis-friendly banks to create a cutting-edge and customer-friendly platform to make sure dispensaries are able to evolve with the marketplace. This preparation often includes features such as compliant banking, payment options, and a streamlined accounting process. 

Stress-free cannabis banking 

Even where cannabis is legal, financial institutions are not always able to provide bank accounts for dispensaries. At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule I substance due to the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which means the legal cannabis industry is bound by stringent compliance regulations. The purpose of these complex rules is to prevent money laundering and improve the overall manufacturing, importation and exportation, distribution, and dispensing of controlled substances. But in reality, these laws are extremely costly and cumbersome for both banks and dispensaries. 

Without a national legal framework, not all banks are willing to work with such a highly regulated industry. The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requires financial institutions to keep detailed records of any dispensary they provide services to and report any suspicious activity, such as money laundering, to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). These reporting requirements are especially inconvenient for dispensaries since roughly 70% of retail cannabis transactions are paid in cash. 

Luckily, some banks recognize that financial institutions need to step up to the plate to help plant-touching businesses flourish. Safe Harbor, the leading cannabis-compliant banking program for cannabis businesses and an affiliate of Partner Colorado Credit Union, has spent the last seven years refining their partnership with dispensaries. Since 2015, Safe Harbor has processed $11 billion in cannabis payments, and has tirelessly navigated the federal laws to do so. Working with a platform that has an established partnership with a compliant bank like Safe Harbor not only minimizes operational risks but also allows retailers to invest more time and resources into customer engagement and acquisition. 

Payment methods make a difference

While retailers still can’t compliantly process debit card or credit cards payments at checkout, one solution that has made day-to-day cannabis operations easier and safer is bank-to-bank transfers, or ACH payments through Aeropay. Integrating these types of payment systems allow dispensaries to operate more conventionally, with clear transaction reports on profits and spending, which in turn helps the bank prevent money laundering and fraud. ACH payments are also in line with society becoming increasingly cashless

Contactless payments go beyond helping financial institutions comply with federal regulations. Customers prefer this seamless and fully transparent cannabis payment method. Not only is it how patrons are used to making purchases, but ACH payments aren’t like cashless ATM payments. The dispensary’s name is not masked on their bank statements, and there are no additional fees. 

Beyond customers’ preferences, using a cashless payment processor that allows dispensaries to keep their funds in a bank keeps the storefront safe from theft. Any business that is known publicly to have large amounts of cash kept on the premises is at high risk. Dispensaries are often left depending on security systems such as alarms, floodlights, and videotaping. These measures can certainly help deter theft – however, they are costly and are not 100% effective.

Using Aeropay also makes a whole other frontier more accessible: online orders. Statistics show that Millennial and Gen Z consumers, who make up the majority of legal cannabis sales, are now driving considerable demand for online and delivery orders. Dispensaries that are able to integrate this service in their point of sales systems are at a competitive advantage in this increasingly saturated market. Once cannabis becomes federally legal, consumers will prefer dispensaries that already offer omnichannel services and contactless cannabis payments. 

Convenient accounting options

Choosing the right accounting platform for any business is already a headache without dealing with cannabis regulations. Dedicated accounting services should facilitate dispensary requirements such as filing taxes, gaining additional investments, and eventually, preparing a financial statement audit. The ideal accounting system is critical as it provides clear information about dispensaries’ capital and streamlines the due diligence process for future business partners. A compliant and comprehensive accounting system will also generate more profits down the road since it can seamlessly provide key financial and cash flow insights to current or potential investors. 

Aeropay also offers dedicated accounting services through its merchant portal. There are many key features on the customizable user dashboard that make managing a dispensary’s finances a breeze. For example, businesses can track and maintain payments in real-time. There is an ability to filter cannabis payments by type, view user history, and void or refund transactions. Aeropay also provides daily reporting totals and data sums for accurate bookkeeping and performance reviews. 

Tech stacks give dispensaries a competitive edge 

Dispensaries must differentiate themselves in the marketplace through conducive and compliant consumer experiences that appeal to distinct audiences. The threshold ultimately starts with the store’s technology infrastructure. Leveraging sophisticated systems will also incentivize mainstream financial institutions to provide the necessary resources once cannabis is federally legal.

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