My career in banking has exposed me to the many types of businesses that come into the bank to establish relationships. I learned that access to the full suite of banking products undeniably impacts a business’s growth potential. What can be more challenging is being a business in an industry that banks have historically considered high risk — the cannabis industry. This is why I was so interested in Veriheal’s story. Veriheal “is a healthcare technology company whose mission is to provide personalized cannabis education and wellness to everyone around the world.” Founders, Josh Green and Sam Adetunji identified a need for Veriheal while delivering Cannabis accessories, a precursor business to Veriheal. They recognized that many of their clients were looking for ways to get a medical marijuana card. The increasing legalization of marijuana across the country for recreational and medicinal purposes was the perfect time to move forward with their business idea.
The road to becoming the high revenue business that they are now, had several hurtles, one of which was the absence of innovative thinking. Mr. Green said, “in the beginning, there was a lot of hate and people trying to dissuade us.” The industry was very antiquated, and there had been no room for technological innovation. Another hurdle that the cofounders encountered was with banks. For some banks, the mere appearance of the words Cannabis or marijuana can be an unscalable roadblock. Those who have been able to get their foot in the door were because they had internal bank advocates who understood their business model in detail. Even then, businesses in this industry will have limited access to banking products, lending, for example. Without access to credit, a company has to rely on cash on hand, limiting how much they can grow. For Veriheal, an ancillary business that does not touch the plants, they were lumped into the same category as cannabis touching businesses by banks. Josh Green said they had to “re-strategize and reallocate capital.” Since banking products were limited, they had to “look for better capital allocation within the company.”
I believe that banks have to do better when it comes to doing business with companies like Veriheal. They must build up their risk tolerance because this, Cannabis, is only going to continue to grow as more states legalize it. I asked Mr. Green what he believes that banks could do to be more supportive of industries like his, and his response was something that I agreed with wholeheartedly. “Banks need to invest in hiring younger people. People who understand businesses like his. The business streets have shifted from newspaper ads and billboards to social media.”
Veriheal is also a company that is acutely aware of our current social climate and isn’t afraid to speak up. They have a very active blog that puts out powerful pieces. An example of that is a piece by Natasha Winkler title How Cannabis Legalization Can Help Fight For Racial Justice. The company is very intentional about who they hire and who they partner with. Their company “reflects the diversity of America with young, old, gay, transgender team members of all races.” He said that “we have always been on the equality wave and are just happy that everyone is catching up with it.” Their team and supply chain are equally intentional about supporting black lives as they are. Josh told me he has many business partners reach out to him saying how much they love working with them, and as black founders, they want to know how they can show love to Veriheal. He said that they had gone as far as wanting to know the causes that matter to them and what businesses they are donating to because they want to support them.
Veriheal employees suggested that they develop a scholarship for business, nursing, biology, and technology. They initially made a scholarship for $1000 and then did more, they now have tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money available. View this on their website. This is an example of what the younger employees are doing to make a difference.