Member Blog: Cautionary Tales of Cannabis Compliance
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Member Blog: Cautionary Tales of Cannabis Compliance

by Alexa Rivera, Assistant Marketer at PeopleGuru

As a member of the NCIA, you probably already know how difficult so many of the aspects of business are due to the nature of the industry. Unfortunately, sometimes it seems like the laws and regulations are never-ending, and frankly, it can cause quite the impact on the way operations are handled. 

As much as we hate to be the bearer of bad news, it is likely a good idea to be wary of these things, especially regarding compliance regulations.

Cannabis Compliance Regulations 

While numerous states have legalized cannabis, it remains federally illegal under Schedule I of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. While the hope is that cannabis will soon be federally legalized and decriminalized, we haven’t quite gotten there yet. 

Because of the state of our society and often the stigma associated with cannabis, not to mention the astronomical fines associated with being involved in the legal industry incorrectly, many financial institutions refuse to touch cannabis businesses. Yes, even when a client does everything correctly. 

As you can imagine, this creates a lot of problems involving transactions and payroll. In fact, as of June 30th, only 706 banks and credit unions were actively providing banking services to marijuana-related businesses. These banking issues lead many business owners to conduct mainly cash transactions, making things even more challenging to monitor. Around 40% of Colorado cannabis businesses lack bank accounts altogether. 

How are Canna Business owners coping? 

Cannabis companies constantly have to get creative with how they handle revenue –– which is enough to make any business owner pretty uneasy. Without banks, stores are often forced to take payment in cash and invest in ATMs for their shops while they’re at it. Holding so much cash means armored vehicles to collect the money and tremendous crime risk. Yikes, talk about a debacle. 

In an attempt to make things easier, some companies have opted to funnel cash through shell companies, but as you can imagine, that puts a big target on their backs. “It can start to look a lot like money laundering,” says businessman Tim Cullen. Despite complaints from states that collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash for taxes is troublesome (to say the least), little has been done to rectify the problem. 

A Cautionary Tale

A Massachusetts company running three cannabis dispensaries has found itself in quite the mess despite believing they were following protocol properly. After an eight-month investigation, the company has been ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution and penalties. 

This situation has resulted from unintentionally neglecting a state law requiring businesses to pay 1.2 times the regular hourly wage on Sundays and Holidays. The company has admitted that these errors have stemmed from difficulty in hiring a traditional payroll service provider. 

Avoiding Compliance Related Repercussions 

One way many owners are attempting to get around payroll and tax issues is to misclassify their employees as 1099 contractors to avoid many of the tedious payroll-associated hurdles. Sounds too good to be true? It is! The Department of Labor does not take this kind of infraction lightly, and if you think $300,000 for missing Sundays and a few holidays is a steep fine, buckle up, and fast. If the DOL suspects the misclassification was intentional, you can expect up to $1,000 in criminal penalties per employee and even jail time. So for some legal options…… 

A Promising IRS Initiative

The IRS has recently launched a program titled “Cannabis/Marijuana Initiative” with the hopes of implementing a strategy to increase voluntary compliance. This is fantastic news for the industry because, as was the case for the dispensary above, often, the breeches are simply a result of misinformation. Hopefully, with an initiative such as this one put in place, small business owners can grasp tax regulations before any compliance issues arise with the guidance of the IRS on the industry’s side.

A Helpful Hand

Another great option is investing in a software solution that supports the cannabis industry and won’t leave you hanging. With payroll support and full-service banking, HCM software can prevent issues that may arise by automating the systems that cannabis businesses spend a great deal of time on in avoiding any missteps. You must find a company that won’t leave you hanging with an unreliable banking service.


While more and more of America seems to be coming around to the idea of legal cannabis businesses being a legitimate industry, we still have some ways to go. In the meantime, covering all your bases and ensuring compliance is the best bet to ensure you don’t end up between a rock and a hard place — and as a result, spending a small fortune in fines and fees. Be sure to keep up with changing laws and consider your options for the best shot at easy and secure payroll and tax keeping.    

PeopleGuru develops and supports cloud-based Human Capital Management (HCM) software to help mid-market organizations in the Cannabis Industry attract, retain, and recognize their people and streamline back-office HR and Payroll functions. 

PeopleGuru HCM is a highly configurable, true single solution residing on one database that efficiently manages every stage of the employee lifecycle. Behind PeopleGuru’s best-in-class technology, is a team of Gurus who are passionate about helping clients meet their desired business goals by ensuring that they always have the tools and support they need to deliver on their strategic HR objectives, maintain tax & legislative compliance, and boost people productivity.

Alexa is the Assistant Marketer at PeopleGuru. With a B.A. in Advertising and currently pursuing an M.A. in digital strategy, Alexa has a passion for writing, content creation and branding strategy. Specializing in copywriting and unique niche positioning, the world of HCM Software is her latest and greatest challenge.

Find me on: LinkedIn



Video: NCIA Today – Friday, October 22, 2021

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