Last December we did a lead story on the state of payments in the evolving cannabis market. We noted that since marijuana and other cannabis products were illegal under federal law, federal regulators had the power to shut down banks and credit unions that knowingly do business with cannabis dispensaries, even if it's legal in the jurisdictions where they operate. We also mentioned the Federal Reserve had rejected applications for interbank clearing accounts for financial institutions that want to serve cannabis businesses, and the card companies deemed transactions from cannabis retailers to be off limits.
We explored what kinds of workarounds were being pursued to make it safer to do business in the cannabis sphere while also remaining lawful. In this issue's lead article we revisited this vertical to provide an update on where progress has been made and where obstacles remain entrenched. According to FinCEN, about 400 banks and credit unions were "actively" servicing cannabis businesses as of late March. While this was up 20 percent from 2017, it's a mere fraction of the 16,000-plus federally regulated banks and credit unions operating in the United States.
Overcoming obstacles requires creativity, and the payments industry exhibits that in spades. For example, contributing writers offered insights on the multiple innovations on display at the recent Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas; the Square effect and what to do about it; how to turn technology into a competitive edge for your organization; the surcharging opportunity clarified by Visa's bulletin on cash discounts; guidelines for reaping the benefits found in reciprocal prospecting; and how to use stories to grab people's attention, distinguish yourself and your company, and enhance your brand.
Our recent news stories provide a slice of payments today. They include reports on U.S. Payments Forum guidelines for dual-interface contact/contactless card issuance, Canadian card acceptance, and mass transit service implementation; a data breach at R.W. Bowker; and barriers payments analysts see to implementing faster payments and real-time interbank settlement; and more. We've also included the new product and company profiles, and updates on executive appointments, acquisitions, partnerships, research, and other company and individual milestones in payments.
By the time you read this, Thanksgiving will have come and gone. We'll be in the midst of the 2018 holiday season. We wish you the best in the weeks ahead. Please take a moment to send feedback to email@example.com, and email press releases to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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