A worthwhile Planet Money episode from last week dealt with the trouble cannabis businesses, now legal in Washington and Colorado, are having/going to have with their banking.
Bank managers are worried about how the feds plan to deal with these new state-legal but federal-illegal assets. So the now-legitimate pot businesses are still having to operate as cash-only enterprises and figure out creative ways to legally launder their money and get it into banks. Fifty thousand bucks on your statement is one thing—fifty thousand bucks in cash is a liability. Over on the Planet Money blog, they've posted some methods that cash-only businesses use to manage their money:
1. Buy three safes. One for "bulk product," one for "inventoried, ready-for-sale product," and one for cash. "If you put your cash in with the cannabis, it will end up smelling like cannabis, and when you go down to the bank, I guarantee you're going to have a talk with the manager of that bank."
2. Get an ATM — and be prepared to stock it with cash yourself. Credit card companies may not want to do business with you. Same goes for the companies that run ATMs in small businesses. "The companies that traditionally maintain ATMs will not stock your cash," Davis says. "Why? Because it's possible that the federal government will come, break down the door and take that cash."
3. Find angel investors. No bank is going to give you a loan to start a weed shop, even if it's legal.
4. Create a shell company. Banks don't want to do business with weed shops. But they don't mind opening accounts for legal corporations whose business dealings are vague. "I had to be colorful with the way that I opened my account," Davis said. "I don't feel great about having to toy with the truth, but it's essential for me to have banking. I'm a business."
I wonder how these bankless businesses plan to stay in the good graces of the IRS.