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商业 - 科技

比特币比银行更适合大麻产业吗?

Erin Griffith 2014年02月19日

美国政府颁布新规定,银行可以跟持有执照的大麻公司展开合作。但即使获得了政府许可,银行也没有与大麻公司合作的迫切意愿。急需金融服务的大麻产业或许可以考虑比特币。

    上周五,美国政府颁布新规定,允许银行与持有执照的大麻公司合作。由于法律界定的模糊,银行一直对向蓬勃发展的大麻产业提供服务持谨慎态度。大麻在科罗拉多州和华盛顿州被允许用于休闲放松;而在另外18个州,大麻可在医学领域使用。

    新法案要求银行辨别与大麻有关的一切可疑交易,包括向儿童出售大麻以及非法走私大麻。

    大麻公司老板一直在苦苦寻求银行的金融服务,而且常常不得不使用现金。这个消息对于他们而言无疑是最动听的音乐。美国大麻行业协会(National Cannabis Industry Association)执行董事上个月曾经在《纽约时报》(New York Times)的一篇报道中称,银行服务是“合法的大麻产业当今最迫切的需求”。

    然而,新法案并未明确授权银行与大麻公司开展业务往来。毕竟在联邦法律下,大麻仍属于非法物品。有鉴于此,大麻公司很可能要继续为寻找银行而烦恼了。

    Secondmarket首席执行官巴里•希尔伯特是一名热心的比特币投资商,他表示,他相信银行对大麻公司的立场不会因为这个消息而改变。他预测,比特币才会是大麻交易中的先行者。

    的确,许多大麻公司都在研究如何使用比特币平台来代替传统的银行服务。向Weedmaps这类大麻公司投资的私人股本公司Ghost Group政策顾问亚伦•休斯顿说:“这一天肯定不会遥远。无论是大麻还是其他行业,未来都系于比特币一身。”他说,大麻产业的许多人都开始对比特币产生兴趣,因为其他可供选择的金融服务很少,但他还没听说有哪家公司现在已经开始使用比特币。这种神秘的货币复杂难懂,一般小公司的业主难以采用。

    比特币支付公司Bitpay首席执行官托尼•加里皮表示,大麻没有获得联邦法律的许可之前,他的公司绝不允许相关业务通过其平台交易。他说,一旦大麻获得许可,比特币就会成为非常划算的交易方式,比包括信用卡、现金在内的其他银行支付手段都更为廉价。不仅是大麻产业,对所有行业来说,比特币交易的诈骗和盗窃风险都要更低。

    与此同时,休斯顿预测大麻公司更有可能会涌向银行。他表示,许多Weedmaps的客户都是当地的小型药房,他们中的大多数都与美国银行(Bank of America)和美联银行(Wachovia)这类大型银行公开合作。“他们完全处于银行交易的最前线。对他们来说,用什么货币没有区别,但他们得告诉银行他们究竟在做什么。”不过即便是这些与银行有业务往来的公司,也有些找了四五家才碰到愿意合作的银行,经历堪称惨痛。

    休斯顿相信,上周的新闻是主流投资者迈向大麻产业的重大一步。他表示,去年四月,ArcViewInvestor Network大麻公司投资研讨会只吸引到25名投资者。而最近的一次会议则已经有150名投资者参与。甚至连公众人物也开始采取行动:纽约州的议员史蒂夫•卡茨计划将自己的100万美元投入涉及大麻业务的公司。

    休斯顿说:“银行家也许会说(他们不会与大麻公司合作),但事实是,市场有着这样的趋势,而那些人还活在过去。”他这种观点显然是偏见。Ghost Group的最大投资项目Weedmaps简直就像野草一般在疯狂生长,去年的收入达到了3,000万美元。(财富中文网)

    译者:严匡正

    

    Late Friday the U.S. government released new rules that allow banks to work with licensed marijuana businesses. Banks have been reticent to provide services to companies in the burgeoning marijuana industry because the legality is murky. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, and for medicinal use in 18 other states.

    The new guidance asks banks to identify any suspicious transactions related to marijuana, including distribution to children, and illegal trafficking.

    The news is music to the ears of marijuana business owners, who have struggled to find banking options and often resort to using cash. In a New York Times article last month, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association said banking was "the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today."

    But the new guidance doesn't explicitly authorize banks to do business with marijuana companies. After all, marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Because of this, marijuana companies are likely to continue to struggle to find banks.

    Barry Silbert, CEO of Secondmarket and avid Bitcoin investor, said he believes the news won't change banks' stance on marijuana companies. He predicted that Bitcoin processors would be the first movers in this space.

    Indeed, plenty of marijuana companies are looking into how they might use the Bitcoin platform in lieu of traditional banks. "It is definitely not too far in the future," says Aaron Houston, policy advisor for Ghost Group, a private equity firm which invests in marijuana companies likeWeedmaps. "The future is now with respect to Bitcoin, regardless of marijuana or any business." He said plenty of people in the industry are interested in Bitcoin given the dearth of other banking options, but did not know of any companies currently using Bitcoin. The crypto-currency is complicated for the average small business owner to implement.

    Tony Gallippi, CEO of Bitcoin payments company Bitpay, said his company won't allow marijuana on its platform until it is legal on a federal level. Once that happens, he says, Bitcoin will be a lower cost option for doing business than other forms of payment offered by a bank, including credit cards or cash. It also offers a lower risk of fraud and theft for any business, not just marijuana, he says.

    In the meantime, Houston predicts marijuana companies are more likely to flock to banks. He said many of Weedmap's clients, which are mostly small, local dispensaries, are openly working with major banks like Bank of America (BAC) and Wachovia (WFC). "They are completely up front with the banks," he says. "There is no category for them, but they're telling their bankers exactly what they're doing." But even those businesses with banks have horror stories about going to four different banks before finding one that would work with them.

    Houston believes last week's news is a big step toward mainstream investors getting involved in the marijuana business. Last April, ArcView Investor Network pitch events, which are focused on marijuana companies, only pulled around 25 investors, Houston says. The latest one had 150 investors in attendance. Even public figures are getting in on the action: New York State Assemblyman Steve Katz is planning to invest $10 million of his own money into marijuana-related companies.

    "The bankers might be saying (they won't work with marijuana companies), but the fact is the market is moving in one direction and those guys are living in the past," Houston says. He's obviously biased. Ghost Group's biggest investment, Weedmaps, has been growing like a, uh… weed, hitting $30 million in revenue last year.

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