Get funding to start or grow your cannabis business in October 2018

How to get funding for your cannabis business

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There are multiple ways you can finance your cannabis-based business.

Finding the right financing for any business can be difficult. But when you’re looking to open one that involves cannabis, things get even more complex. You likely won’t be able to borrow from a big bank, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have options for funding a business in this budding industry. As states continue to pass laws regulating the use and cultivation of cannabis, new ways of getting your business the financing it needs are opening up.
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    Compare top cannabis business loan providers

    Rates last updated October 19th, 2018
    Unfortunately, none of the business loan providers currently offer loans for these criteria.
    Name Product Product Description Min Loan Amount Max. Loan Amount Requirements
    LoanBuilder, A PayPal Service Business Loans
    Customizable loans with no origination fee for business owners in a hurry.
    $5,000
    $500,000
    Annual business revenue of at least $42,000, at least 9 months in business, personal credit score of 550+.
    Diamond Business Loans
    Grow your startup or cannabis business with a line of credit or fixed-term business loan.
    $25,000
    $150,000
    Personal credit score of 680, no late payments or bankruptcies.
    GoKapital
    Find the funding your business needs without the worry of meeting a minimum credit score.
    $10,000
    $5,000,000
    Minimum of $10,000 average monthly revenue. At least four months of business bank account statements.
    Green Leaf Money
    Connects cannabis businesses with lenders willing to work with them across the country.
    $25,000
    $10,000,000
    Documented income and records of your business spending and accounts.

    Compare up to 4 providers

    What types of financing are available for cannabis businesses?

    While you won’t be able to walk into a bank with a business plan and be approved for financing, you still have options.

    • Business loans from alternative financing companies. Some lenders like Diamond Business Loans specialized in cannabis businesses and work to meet their unique needs. You can get a standard term loan from these lenders to pay for large, one-time expenses.
    • Business lines of credit. Alternative financing companies also offer lines of credit to help cannabis businesses cover ongoing expenses.
    • Real estate loans. These secured loans can be used to buy or refinance the buildings or raw land you need to run your business.
    • Equipment leases and loans. Also available through alternative financing companies, cannabis businesses can use this loan to to pay for hardware, software, vehicles and more.
    • Crowdfunding. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allows anyone to invest $2,000 in small companies in exchange for a stake in the business. Companies can raise up to $1 million this way. Fundanna is an equity crowdfunding platform that specializes in cannabis businesses.
    • Private equity firms. Financial firms may be willing to offer short-term high-interest loans or funding for a large stake in your company.
    • Venture capitalists. In nearly all industries, you’ll find wealthy investors interested in helping small businesses grow, often in exchange for equity.
    • Angel investors. Similar to venture capitalists, angel investors help businesses get started and typically deal with smaller amounts of money.
    • Personal loans. Got a solid credit history? You might have better luck getting approved for a personal loan, which you can use to start or fund your cannabis business.
    • Home equity loans. Homeowners can also borrow against the value of their houses with a home equity loan or line of credit.

    Why can’t I get business financing from my local bank?

    Although cannabis products are legal in many states, it is still prohibited to buy, sell or use them on a federal level. The FDIC considers any bank willing to work with a cannabis-based business as taking on an existential risk with potentially negative consequences to the public and in violation of federal law.

    Because marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), banks choosing to provide loans to businesses associated with the drug could be subject to prosecution. They could also be liable if they lend to a business that breaks state law by selling to a minor or transporting cannabis across state lines.

    These risks make it impossible for you to get a business loan from an FDIC-insured bank and puts your business at risk of federal government shutdown.

    What is a Schedule I drug?

    The DEA classifies drugs, substances and chemicals into one of five distinct categories — or “schedules” — according to a drug’s accepted medical use and potential for abuse or dependency.

    A Schedule I drug is considered to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Examples of Schedule I drugs include heroin, ecstasy and marijuana. A 2017 bipartisan bill intends to demote marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III; however, as of August 2018, the bill has yet to be up for vote.

    Is my cannabis-based business eligible for a loan?

    Although loans for your cannabis-based businesses typically won’t involve a bank, your company will still required to meet specific criteria when you apply. Private equity firms, venture capitalists and other investors will likely need to be sure they have a good chance of getting a return on their money.

    For these investors you must generally:

    • Be a business in operation for at least six months.
    • Be incorporated as an LLC, limited company or S corporation.
    • Have a personal credit score of at least 500.
    • Have no criminal record and able to pass a background check.
    • Have gross monthly sales of at least $10,000. If you’re a startup, have a solid business plan.
    • Have a business bank account.

    Depending on the source or platform you’re using, crowdfunding will require generating enough interest and providing incentives for people to fund your business over others competing for funding.

    Can lenders tell if I lie on my application?

    It might be tempting to pretend you’re in another, less complicated industry. But lenders have ways of making sure that you’re telling the truth. For example, some lenders require an on-site visit before you can get approved for a loan. Others use anti-money laundering or fraud-detection software to weed out cannabis companies.

    They also look out for tell-tale signs of cannabis businesses. Low or unusual bank balances for a business of your size and lots of cash transactions can also set off alarm bells. Lenders might be particularly suspicious of your application if they see multiple $9,500 deposits — deposits over $10,000 get reported.

    What can I use a cannabis business loan for?

    Cannabis business loans are a lot like other loans: You can use them to cover almost any cost related to your business — as long as it’s legal in your state. Here are some common expenses cannabis businesses can use a business loan to cover:

    • Cannabis business license fees. Starting a new business? You’ll need to get a business license to register your business with local authorities. You may also need to get a state tax license. These costs as much as $78,000 a year, depending on what type of business you’re planning on starting.
    • Growhouse costs. Setting up and maintaining a growhouse is expensive — you have to have a strong grip on the indoor climate to get the best product. According to Marijuana Business Daily, starting an indoor growhouse can cost $75 per square foot.
    • Dispensary costs. Running a dispensary can come with daily recurring costs that your business might not be able to afford when it’s just starting out — and might benefit from opening a line of credit.
    • Hiring new staff. Bringing new people on board can up productivity and future revenue — but you’ll need to be able to pay their salaries first.
    • Paying for equipment. Many cannabis business lenders offer options for leasing or buying new equipment that you need to keep things running smoothly.
    • Utilities. Growhouses especially might want to consider taking out a line of credit or business loan to cover those high electricity costs.
    • Rent, land or real estate costs. You’ll need a place for your business to operate. A cannabis business loan can help you rent, buy your first piece of real estate or expand your current operation.

    Cannabis business loan costs

    Like any business loan, there are generally two main costs you need to pay attention to when comparing cannabis business loans: Interest and fees.

    • Interest. Lenders charge a percentage of the amount you owe each month, which they then add to the amount you repay. For cannabis businesses, interest rates typically start as low as around 5% and go up to 20% or higher.
    • Fees. Cannabis loans in particular tend to come with fees involved in taking out the loan. The most common is an origination fee. Lender usually charge between 0% to 10% and often deduct it from the amount you borrow.

    Lenders often express your loan’s interest and fees in one percentage called the annual percentage rate (APR). If a loan doesn’t come with any fees, the APR and interest rate are the same. If it does, the APR will be higher to reflect those additional costs.

    How safe are loans for cannabis businesses?

    Safety can vary by the type of funding you pursue. Because you’re typically accepting funding from nontraditional sources for a business that could potentially be shut down by the federal government, you’ll want to be careful about how you proceed.

    Venture capitalists, private equity firms and even individual sources are taking a financial and personal risk by providing funding to cannabis-based businesses. These funders may be experienced in dealing with business owners who got their start working in a highly regulated industry and as a result could have their own way of doing business to safeguard their interests.

    To protect your business, you may want to draw up a contract that is strict in its interpretation and specifically worded to avoid any misunderstandings that can be used against you in court. If you’re not skilled or experienced in contract negotiations, consider hiring an attorney to carefully look over your loan contract before you and all involved parties sign it.

    The federal government tolerates marijuana businesses in states where it’s legal but could potentially shut down shops and any other businesses at any time until marijuana is no longer classified as a federal Schedule I drug.

    If you’re giving up equity, a good attorney can help you write a solid contract that is mutually beneficial for your business and your investors. This could protect your total personal investments if your business experiences hardships.

    Crowdfunding for cannabis businesses

    How it worksFeesEligibility
    FundannaList your business on this crowdfunding platform to get connected with investors around the world.Raise between $10,000 and $1,070,000$3,500 listing fee, success fee if you reach your goalsMust own a startup in the cannabis space. You're not eligible if your company is outside of the US or already reports to the SEC.
    CannaFundrBuild a profile on this crowdfunding platform to get connected with investors willing to trade funds for a percentage of ownership.As much as you’re able to raiseA percentage of your business’s ownershipCannabis businesses operating in a state where marijuana is legal.

    SEC regulations

    In mid-May of 2016, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) passed regulations on how cannabis crowdfunding functions. Before, you had to be a rather wealthy individual to invest in cannabis.

    Under the new regulations, you can invest $2,000 per year as long as you receive stock in the company. A wealthy individual gets that limit raised to $100,000. It should be noted that this limit is on an accumulative basis and not per company invested in.

    The other part of the regulation allows small cannabis business to receive up to $1,000,000 in crowdfunding each year through the method. It can require extensive filing with the SEC depending on how much you raise, and a bank account specifically for the funds received.

    Equity crowdfunding vs. regular crowdfunding

    You might associate a website like Kickstarter with crowdfunding, but this model isn’t quite the same as equity crowdfunding. Kickstarter is a platform where backers get some form of reward, like a free product or early access to a service, for their contributions.

    On the other hand, equity crowdfunding gives backers a piece of the company. In this way, backers become investors. Both regular and equity crowdfunding are legal. The latter is highly regulated by the SEC, and the former requires some careful planning when it comes to rewards to abide state laws.

    Which should you use? It depends on your business plan and what you’re willing to give. When it comes to donation-based backing you’re building a potential customer base instead of gaining investors. You should also consider that regular crowdfunding requires reward tiers while equity relies on giving up a portion of your business.

    Compare top crowdfunding options for cannabis businesses

    Cannabis funding from an investor

    Crowdfunding might be a good option for getting seed money for a new cannabis business. But once it matures, you might want to look into other investment opportunities. Cannabis-focused hedge funds like Poseidon Asset Management and Navy Capital pool money from interested investors to fund your business. Other investment sources include family offices, angel investors and venture firms.

    Typically, you’ll need to provide more documentation than a business loan and how long it takes to get your funds can be unpredictable. Be prepared to submit a business plan, pitch deck, financial projections and more. It also helps if you can present your pitch in a video or other form of media that’s easy for investors to quickly go over.

    Top investment institutions for cannabis businesses

    NameTypeHow to get started
    Ackrell CapitalInvestment bankContact Ackrell Capital by either calling (415) 995-2000 or filling out a short form expressing interest on its website.
    Benchmark CapitalVenture firmVisit or send a note to one of its two offices: 988 Market Street in San Francisco, California or 2965 Woodside Road in Woodside, California. You can also get more information by contacting the Twitter handle @benchmark.
    Canna AngelsAngel investor connection serviceSubmit an application with your executive summary, pitch deck, a fact sheet and a video along with an application and a $185 application fee to get connected with an angel investor.
    Cassa Verde CapitalVenture firmYou can reach out to this firm (founded by Snoop Dog in 2015) by filling out an online form expressing interest on its website.
    Poseidon Asset ManagementHedge fundFill out a quick form on its website with your contact information, a short description of your company, a profile of you and your co-owners business expertise and how much funds you’re looking for.
    Navy CapitalHedge fundFill out a quick online form with your contact information and a brief message or call (646) 521-8748.

    Friend and family loans

    Don’t want to sell equity? Your friends and family can also invest in your business by personally lending you the funds and collecting on interest. You can work out a contract on your own or use a resource like loanable, which helps you draw up a legally binding contract for loans from your social circle.

    Marijuana regulations by state

    Many states have legalized marijuana in some form for medicinal purposes, recreational purposes and cultivation. However, federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, which complicates the ability for you to get a business loan for a cannabis-based business.

    As of August 2018, marijuana is legal in some form in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

    StatePossession limitPlant limitRecreational
    Alaska1 oz3 mature, 3 immatureYes
    Arizona2.5 oz12 plantsNo
    Arkansas3 oz per 14 daysN/ANo
    California8 oz6 mature, 12 immatureYes
    Colorado2 oz3 mature, 3 immatureYes
    Connecticut2.5 ozN/ANo
    Delaware6 ozN/ANo
    FloridaTBDN/ANo
    Hawaii4 oz7 plantsNo
    Illinois2.5 oz per 14 daysN/ANo
    Maine2.5 oz6 plantsYes
    Maryland30-day supply, TBDN/ANo
    Massachusetts60-day supply, 10 ozN/AYes
    Michigan30-day supply, 10 ozN/AYes
    Minnesota30-day, nonsmokableN/ANo
    Montana1 oz4 plants, 12 seedlingsNo
    Nevada2.5 oz12 plantsYes
    New Hampshire2 oz per 10 daysN/ANo
    New Jersey2 ozN/ANo
    New Mexico6 ozN/ANo
    New York30-day, nonsmokableN/ANo
    North Dakota3 oz per 14 daysN/ANo
    Ohio90-day supply TBDN/ANo
    Oregon24 oz6 mature, 18 immatureYes
    Pennsylvania30-day supplyN/ANo
    Rhode Island2.5 oz12 plantsNo
    Vermont2 oz2 mature, 7 immatureNo
    Washington8 oz6 plantsYes
    Washington, DC2 oz driedN/AYes
    West Virginia30-day supply TBDN/AYes

    How to start a marijuana dispensary

    Opening a dispensary is not as easy as growing some plants and setting up shop. However, if you’re willing to put in some work and deal with some red tape, there is money to be made.

    1. Understand your state’s laws. Research whether your state allows recreational use, how much marijuana it allows a person to have, how many plants you’re allowed to grow and any other parameters state residents are required to follow. Look into laws expected to be enacted in the future.
    2. Make sure you’re eligible. In addition to your lender’s eligibility criteria, you and your investors may need to pass a background check before proceeding with funding.
    3. Research any tax laws. Even though marijuana isn’t legal according to federal law, you are still required to pay taxes on money earned. This could require accepting and making payments in cash only to steer clear of possible federal money laundering charges.
    4. Find a compliant rental space. Look into zoning laws that could affect where you can open a dispensary. You’ll typically find that you cannot open a cannabis-based business near a school, park or church.
    5. Create a business plan. A good business plan sets you apart from other businesses seeking similar funding and determines your budget and future pricing.
    6. Get a license. Licensing for your dispensary will vary depending on your state’s laws and can be expensive to pursue.
    7. Get good product. Before cultivating your own product, you may need to buy from other growers. Carefully review how to stay 100% compliant with your state’s laws when purchasing supplies.
    8. Market your business. As a startup business, consider offering deals for first-time customers, buying advertising in industry publications and on relevant sites and seek publicity in periodicals and blogs.

    How to legally start a cannabis business in 2018

    How to cover your dispensary’s startup costs

    Startup financing is hard enough to get if you’re part of a relatively low-risk industry. Fortunately, cannabis is such a new industry that it’s slightly easier to find marijuana-friendly lenders that also work with startups. Lenders like Diamond Business Loans care more about your personal credit history than your business’s — after all most cannabis businesses are unbanked.

    If you have strong personal credit, you might also want to consider taking out a personal loan to cover startup costs. Own a home? A home equity line of credit can also help you fund your startup costs. These can be a bit risky since you’ll be on the hook for paying it back, even if your business fails. But you won’t need to have a business bank account and meet the usual business loan requirements to qualify.

    Can’t get either? Investors and crowdfunding sites might your best bet. With these options you might want to pay extra attention to your business plan and pitch deck if you’re going for one of these options — that’s what your investors will focus on the most when making their decision.

    Getting a cannabis business loan in California

    With a $2.7 trillion GDP, California is one of the largest economies where recreational cannabis is legal in the world. But that doesn’t mean getting a loan is always easy. Only around 150 financial institutions are willing to work with cannabis businesses. And like other states where recreational cannabis is legal, these institutions can stop being cannabis-friendly at a moment’s notice.

    While the newly-founded California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and the Department of Business Oversight (DBO) are responsible for regulating the industry, it doesn’t have any specific rules for cannabis business loans. But a lot of cannabis-friendly lenders and investors are based in the the golden state, meaning that it might be easier to secure funding than businesses located in other states.

    To make sure you’re working with a legit lender when borrowing in California, make sure it’s registered with the DBO before you apply. Many display their licenses on their websites. If not, you can check it’s status by filling out a quick form on the DBO’s website.

    Bottom line

    While you may likely find it difficult to secure funding for your cannabis-based business, you have several alternatives to bank loans that could help you start up or expand your services. Some options offer term loans with fixed interest while others could be looking to own equity in your company.

    Be sure to compare the funding options available to find one that’s most beneficial for you and complies with all applicable laws.

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    11 Responses

    1. Default Gravatar
      JohnApril 28, 2018

      I’m from the UK and know how to grow, can I get a loan to get me from the UK to the USA and get a green card, and accommodation for growing, then turn a profit and pay you back?

      I am properly good at growing, I just don’t have the funds to get there, any info would be a great help.

      Cheers

      John

      • finder Customer Care
        JoshuaApril 28, 2018Staff

        Hi John,

        Thanks for getting in touch with finder.

        Please note that we are not affiliated with any company we feature on our site and so we can only offer you general advice. You may need to directly get in touch with the companies we feature on this page to get the funding that you need. All you need to do is click on the “Go to site” green button of the company of your choice.

        It is important to note that there are eligibility requirements that you need to meet before a loan is provided. Private equity firms, venture capitalists, and other investors will likely need to be sure they have a good chance of getting a return on their money. If you are in the UK and you are looking for a loan in the US, you might have limited options or there would be a lot of challenges that you have to overcome before you get your funding.

        I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

        Have a wonderful day!

        Cheers,
        Joshua

    2. Default Gravatar
      johndeguzmanMarch 16, 2018

      Hi,

      Thank you for contacting finder.

      I understand that you are a looking for loan options in Alaska.

      I have a link that will be helpful in giving you options for financial assistance.

      https://www.finder.com/payday-loans/alaska

      Thanks.

      John

    3. Default Gravatar
      JohnOctober 12, 2017

      Any recommendations on lenders in Southern California? Looking for a private money loan to purchase a commercial property for dispensary retail. Property identified. Thanks!

      • Default Gravatar
        LiezlOctober 13, 2017

        Hi John,

        Thanks for reaching out. While we are unable to recommend a particular lender, you may refer to our comparison page on non-bank business loan options that might be able to finance your cannabis dispnesary business. I sent on your email some articles and references on marijuana business investing that you might find helpful.

        Kind regards,
        Liezl

    4. Default Gravatar
      TonySeptember 27, 2017

      Are there any options in NH to grow cannibis or hemp based products for industrial use or medical use.
      I’m a farmer that handicapped and would like to explore options in the state of NH or FL.
      Is there a prevision that allows grow and mfg of cannibis based products. Turnkey operations in NH?
      Thank you

      • finder Customer Care
        HaroldSeptember 28, 2017Staff

        Hi Tony,

        Thank you for your inquiry.

        As per checking you are already in the correct page. Please review the content provided on our guide on this page there are types of financing are available for cannabis businesses. Please note that the options available is applicable only in United States.

        I hope this information has helped.

        Cheers,
        Harold

    5. Default Gravatar
      JeffSeptember 22, 2017

      Hello,

      My state just legalized MMJ and I want to open a cultivation operation to strictly grow. Its big rewards but big up front costs to get in the game. Does Finder help cultivation operations as well?

      • Default Gravatar
        LiezlSeptember 22, 2017

        Hi Jeff,

        Thanks for reaching out. Just to clarify, finder.com is a comparison website and general information service, we do not provide funding or offer loan ourselves.

        While bank loan is not an option currently available for cannabis businesses, there are other financing options mentioned above that you can look into. One of which is crowdfunding and to know how this works, you may refer to our guide here.

        Kind regards,
        Liezl

    6. Default Gravatar
      StanleySeptember 20, 2017

      How can I get in the business

      • finder Customer Care
        MariaSeptember 20, 2017Staff

        Hey Stanley,

        Thank you for reaching out to us.

        You’re on the right page for your concern as it includes how to start a marijuana dispensary found further down the page.

        In summary, these are the possible steps:
        – Understand your state’s laws.
        – Make sure you’re eligible.
        – Research any tax laws.
        – Find a compliant rental space.
        – Create a business plan.
        – Get a license.
        – Get good product.
        – Market your business.

        I hope this helps.

        Best,
        Maria

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