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As the US moves closer to cannabis legalization, Merrco is ready for payments

When I joined the Board of Merrco in 2017, recreational cannabis hadn’t yet been legalized in Canada. Shortly thereafter I was approached to become CEO and I was drawn to the opportunity to lead a high growth, emerging payments business delivering a best-in-class solution across the cannabis sector. Having spent the majority of my career in payments, bringing my experience to the cannabis industry that was legalizing was tremendously exciting. I knew that there would be a huge opening to offer payments across the sector.

Right now, the US market continues to be a patchwork. Some states have legalized either recreational cannabis or medical cannabis or both, some states haven’t legalized at all, and federally, cannabis is still illegal. In Canada, on the other hand, both recreational and medical cannabis are legal. And as a Canadian company, we’ve proven our ability. We’ve been there, done that. We’ve built our brand and we have significant market share across Canada. We have a noteworthy portfolio of customers and partners, and we’re known for being cannabis payments experts, and for being agile in an everchanging regulatory landscape.

Now, we’re bringing our experience and our brand to the US market. And we’re not just starting to think about it – we’ve been working on extending our platform for the past several years. Our goal was always to be ready to go before cannabis was federally legal in the US. We also recognize that there’s a need for payments across the CBD sector, and with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, the number of CBD businesses has climbed sharply. We understand the space and we have the expertise to provide our solution and offer payments to the CBD sector as well. It’s a great fit for us now, and I’m optimistic that there will soon be federal legislation addressing the provision of financial services for cannabis businesses. When we can do so legally, we’ll start providing payments for cannabis businesses too.

Why should cannabis and CBD retailers work with Merrco? We partner with software companies, and we look for opportunities to integrate with the software solutions that retailers use to power their businesses, whether it’s the POS, or the ecommerce provider, a marketplace or the delivery solution. We want to make it painless for retailers to work with us, with an integrated, easily reconciled solution for all their payment transactions.

We are sector-focused, and we’re dedicated to the space. We understand the compliance regimes, the rules and regulations. We know what’s needed for each state and province, in different municipalities and townships. That’s important for the businesses we work with because the rules are constantly changing and evolving and their most valuable asset is their license. We’re there to support them, and we understand what’s needed for them to get through to final licensing. Working with a payments partner who’s dedicated to the cannabis sector makes it smooth for merchants, and they know we can provide support and counsel along the way as well.

Our sector expertise and the investments we’ve made in compliance are important because the rules and legality for CBD and for cannabis are not uniform across states and provinces. It’s essential for the integrity of a payments system that whoever is doing the underwriting and bringing businesses on board is deeply knowledgeable and staying current about the sector, and knows what can and can’t be done. We pride ourselves on having built our business by providing payment solutions for legal, transparent, compliant businesses in the cannabis sector and our brand is synonymous with that.

We’re focused on providing legal, compliant, transparent, scalable payment solutions, just like retailers have come to know and expect in every other industry. And this sector is no different: consumers want to be able to walk into a CBD business or visit a website and pay using a debit or credit card.

As the number of states that have legalized continues to rise – 15 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of recreational cannabis, and 36 the use of medical cannabis – the momentum is growing. And public opinion has now evolved to the point where there’s a lot of support for safe and secure access: 68 percent of Americans now support legalization. There’s also increasing attention being given to the social justice aspects of legalization, the much higher rates at which Black and Hispanic Americans have been charged with possession, and the ways that legalization can address the damage done in the past.

When I think back to 2017, there were a lot of people who either didn’t approve of the sector, or who didn’t think it was here to stay. Now, there’s an extraordinarily strong community across the cannabis sector, and those who are participating and active and immersed in the space have developed a strong bond. And that’s really gratifying and wonderful. It’s a vibrant industry, and there’s tremendous opportunity for growth. Merrco’s just getting started.

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