Blockchain Startups Want to Solve Cannabis’ Banking Problem


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Written by Justin O’Connell
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Industry insiders estimate approximately 15% of cannabis businesses have a bank account with a traditional financial institution, while most others operate with the risk of running an all cash business. Entrepreneur’s in distributed finance contend there’s another option.

“The blockchain’s ledger is a great communication tool for regulators,” Tokken founder, and former regulator, Lamine Zarrad told MERRY JANE. “If we can transfer the cash flow to an electronic format, you eliminate most the risk of money laundering.”

Tokken, a “blockchain agnostic” startup whose executives have decades of experience working in government, uses cutting edge technologies to usher in an era of distributed and digital payments in the cannabis industry.

Tokken’s core business is providing sustainable and transparent solutions in the cannabis industry using blockchain technology.  Working with companies like Blockscore and Tierion, Tokken  believes blockchain technology will allow the cannabis industry to flourish.

A former San Francisco dispensary, Trees, recently pivoted towards becoming a payment processor. Founder Hayner dubbed this project, MetalPay. Trees made headlines last year when it announced it’d like to deliver marijuana by drone.

Once having offered a luxurious cannabis kit including vaporizers, dabs and other medical cannabis products with Trees, Hayner’s MetalPay is now part of the Gateway Incubator in Oakland, where the startup further develops the business model. He believes Bitcoin is exactly what the cannabis industry needs.

“There is going to be a change in the banking industry,” Hayner told MERRY JANE. “It’s hard for banks and consumer behavior to change overnight. And, cannabis is still a gray market without banking partners and processing partners. So, the technology to solve this problem is quietly growing in the background. You won’t need to have a bank account.” You can be your own bank, and you can hedge crypto-currencies through the US dollar or Chinese Yen, Hayner adds.

CHEX wants to create a formal exchange for cannabis related products, including ticker symbols representing a specific cannabis commodity. “Processors of cannabis infused products, such as edibles, could use more commodity sourcing options, for sourcing commodities like flower, trim, oil, and dispensaries as wholesale buyers could use more options and suppliers of their product,” Eugene Lopin, CHEX co-founder, told MERRY JANE. An exchange would go a long way towards promoting regulatory compliance in the cannabis industry, Lopin reasons.

Could Cannabis’ Young CEO’s Adopt Bitcoin?

Cannabis CEO’s are young. They might be more inclined to adopt a cutting edge payments technology like Bitcoin than their older counterparts. The two industries have yet to embrace each other.

“The bitcoin community is apprehensive in extending its services or creating affiliations with cannabis, because bitcoiners don’t want to be predominantly stereotyped by the Silk Road,” Zarrad, a former regulator within the Treasury Department,  told MERRY JANE, referencing the darknet marketplace where cannabis traded hands over bitcoin while oft using public mail services. “And the cannabis industry feels the same way about associating itself with bitcoin.”

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