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There’s a popular misconception that the 2018 Farm Bill made CBD “legal,” and therefore the still-prevailing banking restrictions seem contradictory. The actual effect of the legislation was to remove hemp and hemp-derived products, including CBD, from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)’s narcotic drug schedule, transferring oversight to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a regulated agricultural crop and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for products intended for human or animal consumption. However, the legal confusion arises from the fact that hemp and its derivative products are now considered a regulated agricultural crop, without a regulatory framework yet in place.
Companies seeking payment processing solutions experience similar frustration. We were all relieved and elated when US Bank merchant services subsidiary Elavon began onboarding CBD merchants in late 2018 with reasonable pricing and next-day settlement, but when it began apparent that they had jumped in before carefully studying and resolving serious legal and compliance issues, they were obliged to exit the sector in April 2019. This left thousands of merchants without viable alternatives. And of course their exit had a chilling effect on worthy competitors now obliged to reconsider their plans to enter the market.
What are some of the pressing banking issues faced by the CBD industry?
Many folks both in and out of the industry believed that with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill by the U.S. Congress in December 2018 that banking and payment processing for CBD enterprises would quickly become a non-issue. However, though it’s been some time since the Farm Bill passed, Fincann receives a continuous stream of inquiries from hemp and CBD companies seeking simple, transparent, compliant business checking accounts after being turned away from all the banks they’ve contacted.
Unofficially, they are considering CBD topicals to be a “cosmetic” and therefore not unapproved for retail sale and manufacturing. Although specific guidelines are still in the works, especially in regards to labeling, disclosure and testing, both major retailers are openly selling and many banks now accept these business customers while still barring CBD in ingestibles, foods and smokeables. Note that many states and municipalities mirror the same guidelines. Add to this the fact that many states have varying standards of what is legal and permissible in their state, the regulatory framework is patchy at best.
Do CBD companies face similar issues obtaining payment processing?
CBD brands and businesses often find it difficult to obtain compliant, sustainable, and stable banking services. Interestingly, it’s often more challenging to find a CBD-friendly bank than a THC-licensee-friendly one since banks feel that at least are established guidelines for banking cannabis whereas there are few to none for CBD. However, the false impression remains that it’s easy for CBD businesses to access these accounts.