With the passage of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment in the $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the government until September 30, 2017, Congress continues its hands-off approach to the medical marijuana industry. Attached as a rider to the appropriations bill, Rohrabacher-Farr now allows marijuana dispensaries powerful ‘safe harbor’ protections. As a consequence, SinglePoint, Inc. (OTC: SING) is rebooting its initiatives, started two years ago, to be a ‘first mover’ in providing payment solutions to the cannabis vertical through its SingleSeed payments subsidiary.
SinglePoint has been working with medical marijuana (MMJ) businesses for a long time, as GeekWire reported in August 2014 (http://dtn.fm/gm9pX). Back then, the company engaged with more than 100 state-licensed dispensaries in Colorado and Washington to set up point-of-sale terminals that would enable patients to pay for their marijuana purchases with debit and credit cards. SinglePoint’s leadership in providing payment solutions to the newly legalized MMJ industry went up in smoke, however, since banks, afraid of falling afoul of the law, refused to process the payments. Federal money transmitting regulations prohibit ‘the transportation or transmission of funds that… have been derived from a criminal offense or are intended to be used to promote or support unlawful activity’.
In this decidedly more benign environment, SinglePoint, through its SingleSeed Payments subsidiary, is offering a novel payment solution to MMJ dispensaries with its cashless ATM that closely resembles the typical debit/credit card terminal. However, unlike traditional terminals that are associated with an identifiable merchant account, the SingleSeed terminal is linked to the ATM network. As a result, a transaction through a SingleSeed cashless ATM, like a cash withdrawal from any ATM, involves only the account holder, his bank and a cash amount… devoid of other transaction details.
SinglePoint is also breaking ground with its Pay-by-Text™ technology, a tool that facilitates both promotional outreach and payments. Pay-by-Text™ offers a swipe-less payment option to customers who install the app on their mobile phones. To make a payment, the purchaser sends a text message to the payment provider, who clears the transaction with the vendor. The cost of the purchase, subsequently, appears on the monthly phone bill. In addition, the Pay-by-Text™ app becomes a marketing tool. Once the customer has set up a Pay-by-Text™ account, the vendor can issue an invitation to receive text messages. With these promotional and payment solutions, SinglePoint is set to capitalize on the opportunities in payments now that federal legislative and judicial action has created a safe harbor for the MMJ industry.
But a lot has changed since then. Now, even though marijuana remains a Schedule 1 substance like ecstasy, heroin and mescaline under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed resolutions or laws legalizing medical marijuana or regulating its adult use like alcohol or tobacco.
This has prompted a supportive response from the legislative and judicial branches of the federal government, in stark contrast to the mixed messages coming from the executive. Most importantly, the continuation of Rohrabacher-Farr, which prohibits the Justice Department from using funds allocated by Congress to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws, triggers the ‘safe harbor’ protections of an important court ruling last year.
On August 16, 2016, in United States v. McIntosh, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court for the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, created a ‘safe harbor’ for medical marijuana establishments. Its ruling requires federal district court judges to provide medical marijuana suppliers and users with a pre-trial evidentiary hearing so that they can establish that their activities are compliant with applicable state law. If such compliance is established, then prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) should be dismissed or discontinued, as long as Rohrabacher-Farr, which first became law in May 2014, stands. This means that if MMJ dispensaries can demonstrate compliance with state laws by, for example, having a compliance program in place, they cannot be prosecuted under the CSA.
In addition, SinglePoint has announced in a press release (http://dtn.fm/8ErRx) that it has signed an agreement allowing the company to begin offering “high risk” merchant accounts. This is a major step toward providing previously unavailable financial services to companies in high-risk categories, and the company plans to integrate this into their Pay-by-Text solution.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.SinglePoint.com
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