Shield Compliance urges card brands to accept cannabis payments


Shield Compliance, a compliance management platform for the cannabis industry, is advocating for card brands to accept cannabis payments. In an open letter, they highlight the difficulties faced by cannabis businesses in securing merchant services due to federal restrictions. By urging card brands to accept these payments, Shield Compliance believes transparency and accountability in the industry will improve. Additionally, they propose that card brands implement risk mitigation strategies to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. As a company dedicated to helping cannabis businesses navigate legal and regulatory challenges, Shield Compliance hopes their letter will spark a positive change in the industry.

Overview of Shield Compliance’s open letter

Shield Compliance, a leading compliance management platform for the cannabis industry, has recently released an open letter addressing an urgent issue faced by cannabis businesses – the inability to secure merchant services due to federal restrictions. The letter highlights the importance of addressing the limitations in securing payment solutions for cannabis businesses and provides suggestions for card brands on how they can play a pivotal role in enhancing compliance and fostering growth in the industry.

Introduction to Shield Compliance’s open letter

In an effort to drive change and promote industry growth, Shield Compliance has penned an open letter directed towards card brands, advocating for the acceptance of cannabis payments. The letter serves as a call to action, urging card brands to recognize the potential benefits of engaging with the cannabis industry and proactively finding solutions to the challenges faced by businesses in this sector.

Purpose of the letter

With the ultimate goal of fostering collaboration, trust, and adaptation within the evolving cannabis industry, Shield Compliance’s open letter seeks to address the issue of cannabis businesses’ restricted access to merchant services. By shedding light on the advantages of accepting cannabis payments, the letter aims to encourage card brands to consider the unique opportunities that lie within this emerging market.

Brief explanation of the issue faced by cannabis businesses

Currently, many cannabis businesses are unable to secure merchant services due to the federal status of cannabis as a Schedule I substance. This classification puts financial institutions at risk of running afoul of federal regulations and potentially facing severe consequences. Consequently, card brands have been hesitant to engage with the cannabis industry, leaving cannabis businesses largely reliant on cash transactions.

Importance of addressing the limitations in securing merchant services

It is crucial to address the limitations faced by cannabis businesses in securing merchant services, as doing so would bring about numerous benefits for both the cannabis industry and the broader economy. By accepting cannabis payments, card brands can contribute to increasing transparency, enhancing accountability, reducing reliance on cash transactions, and promoting a safer business environment. These advantages have the potential to transform the cannabis industry and provide a solid foundation for its continued growth.

Benefits of accepting cannabis payments

Increasing transparency in the cannabis industry

Accepting cannabis payments can significantly increase transparency within the industry. Currently, cash transactions dominate the cannabis market, which creates challenges when it comes to tracking funds and ensuring regulatory compliance. By transitioning to digital payments, card brands can enable the collection of valuable data, allowing for enhanced visibility and oversight throughout the entire supply chain.

Enhancing accountability and financial tracking

With the acceptance of cannabis payments, card brands can contribute to the improvement of accountability and financial tracking within the cannabis industry. By integrating compliance-focused technologies and tools, transactions can be accurately recorded, ensuring that funds are not being misappropriated or diverted to illicit activities. This heightened accountability will reinforce consumer trust, attracting more individuals and businesses to engage with the legal cannabis market.

Reducing reliance on cash transactions

The widespread reliance on cash transactions within the cannabis industry poses significant security risks for businesses, customers, and the community at large. By accepting cannabis payments, card brands can help reduce the amount of cash circulating in the industry, thereby minimizing the potential for theft, violence, and illicit activities. This shift towards digital payments promotes a safer environment for businesses, employees, and customers alike.

Promoting a safer business environment

By embracing cannabis payments, card brands can actively contribute to a safer business environment. With a reduced reliance on cash, businesses no longer need to store large amounts of money on-site, alleviating the risk of robberies and violent crimes. Additionally, digital payment solutions can facilitate secure and traceable transactions, discouraging illegal activities and money laundering within the industry.

Suggestions for card brands

To effectively address the limitations faced by cannabis businesses and promote compliance within the industry, Shield Compliance outlines several suggestions for card brands:

Implementing risk mitigation strategies

Card brands should develop and implement robust risk mitigation strategies to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. By proactively assessing and managing the risks associated with engaging in the cannabis industry, card brands can protect themselves and their partners while providing secure and reliable payment solutions.

Developing tools for compliance with regulatory requirements

By creating tools and systems tailored specifically to the unique compliance challenges faced by the cannabis industry, card brands can help businesses navigate the complex and evolving regulatory landscape. Implementing robust Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) protocols will further enhance compliance efforts, paving the way for greater industry growth.

Partnering with technology companies like Shield Compliance

Collaboration between card brands and technology companies specialized in compliance management, such as Shield Compliance, can prove highly beneficial for both parties. By working together, card brands can tap into the expertise and resources of these technology companies, gaining valuable insights and guidance to effectively navigate the intricacies of the cannabis industry.

Offering specialized payment solutions for cannabis businesses

Developing specialized payment solutions tailored to the unique needs of cannabis businesses can help card brands bridge the gap between regulatory compliance and service provision. These customized solutions can address the specific challenges faced by the industry, allowing cannabis businesses to access the merchant services they require while maintaining regulatory compliance.

Enhancing compliance in the cannabis industry

Role of compliance management platforms

Compliance management platforms, such as Shield Compliance, play a crucial role in ensuring regulatory compliance within the cannabis industry. These platforms provide businesses with the tools and systems necessary to navigate the complex and ever-evolving compliance landscape while adhering to both state and federal regulations.

Benefits of utilizing compliance management solutions

Utilizing compliance management solutions offered by platforms like Shield Compliance brings numerous benefits to cannabis businesses. These solutions streamline compliance processes, automate reporting, and provide real-time insights into regulatory changes, ensuring businesses remain in good standing and can focus on their core operations.

Case studies showcasing successful compliance adoption

As the cannabis industry continues to mature, numerous case studies have emerged showcasing the successful adoption of compliance management solutions. These success stories highlight the tangible benefits of prioritizing and investing in compliance, including improved operational efficiency, reduced risk of legal penalties, and enhanced reputation within the industry.

Integration of compliance into the payment process

To enhance compliance efforts, card brands should integrate compliance measures directly into the payment process. Implementing robust customer identification protocols and transaction monitoring systems will create a seamless experience for both businesses and customers, ensuring compliance is embedded at every stage of the payment journey.

Addressing regulatory concerns

Discussion on federal restrictions and challenges

The federal status of cannabis as a Schedule I substance presents a unique set of challenges for businesses operating in this industry. Federal restrictions create barriers, preventing financial institutions and card brands from fully engaging with cannabis businesses due to the potential legal and financial repercussions. Addressing these concerns is crucial for the successful acceptance of cannabis payments.

Potential for federal legalization and its impact on payment acceptance

With the growing momentum towards federal legalization of cannabis, there is a need for card brands to proactively assess the potential impact on payment acceptance. By closely monitoring legislative developments and actively engaging in advocacy efforts, card brands can position themselves to swiftly adapt to any shifts in the legal landscape and leverage the emerging opportunities.

Exploring state-level regulations and their influence on card brands

In addition to federal restrictions, navigating the complex web of state-level regulations is a key consideration for card brands. Each state has its own set of rules and requirements, and card brands must ensure alignment with these regulations to avoid non-compliance and legal challenges. By familiarizing themselves with state-level regulations, card brands can establish strong partnerships with compliant businesses.

Ensuring alignment with anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations

Compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations is paramount for card brands seeking to accept cannabis payments. By adhering to these regulations, card brands can maintain the integrity of the financial system, safeguard against illicit activities, and foster trust with regulators and industry stakeholders.

Collaboration between the cannabis industry and financial institutions

Building trust and cooperation between cannabis businesses and card brands

Building trust and fostering cooperation between cannabis businesses and card brands is essential for the growth and development of the industry. Open and transparent communication, along with a commitment to compliance, can help bridge the divide and establish mutually beneficial partnerships that drive responsible growth in the cannabis sector.

Exploring successful partnerships in other regulated industries

Looking to successful partnerships in other regulated industries can offer valuable insights and strategies for collaboration between the cannabis industry and card brands. Lessons learned from industries such as alcohol and tobacco can help shape the development of mutually beneficial relationships that balance compliance and industry growth.

Potential benefits for card brands in entering the cannabis market

Entering the cannabis market presents card brands with unique opportunities for growth and expansion. With the industry’s rapid expansion, card brands have the chance to tap into a new customer base, build brand loyalty, and establish themselves as leaders in a growing sector. Additionally, accepting cannabis payments can diversify revenue streams and drive incremental business growth.

Adopting a proactive approach towards the cannabis industry

Card brands must adopt a proactive approach towards engaging with the cannabis industry. By proactively addressing the challenges, concerns, and opportunities associated with this emerging market, card brands can position themselves as pioneers in an evolving industry, forging meaningful partnerships that benefit all stakeholders involved.

Challenges and considerations for card brands

Addressing concerns related to reputational risk

Card brands must carefully consider the reputational risks associated with accepting cannabis payments. While the legal and regulatory environment surrounding cannabis is evolving rapidly, some stigma still exists. Card brands should develop robust strategies to address reputational concerns and effectively communicate their commitment to compliance, safety, and responsible business practices.

Navigating the complex and evolving regulatory landscape

The complex and evolving regulatory landscape surrounding the cannabis industry poses significant challenges for card brands. By staying informed and engaging with industry experts, card brands can navigate this landscape effectively, staying ahead of changes in legislation and ensuring ongoing compliance.

Evaluating the impact on existing partnerships and networks

Accepting cannabis payments may have implications for existing partnerships and networks of card brands. It is essential to evaluate and understand the potential impact on these relationships, including the risk tolerance of partners, the compatibility of systems and processes, and the overall strategic fit within the broader business ecosystem.

Balancing compliance requirements with business growth

Achieving a balance between compliance requirements and business growth is a critical consideration for card brands. Striking this balance requires careful planning, robust compliance processes, and ongoing assessment of risk. By investing in compliance solutions and collaborating with industry specialists, card brands can navigate this challenge successfully.

The future of cannabis payments

Predictions for the evolution of cannabis payments

As the cannabis industry matures and continues to gain acceptance, the future of cannabis payments looks promising. The widespread acceptance of cannabis payments is expected to increase, with more financial institutions and card brands recognizing the potential of this market and adapting their services accordingly.

Technological advancements and their influence on payment acceptance

Technological advancements will play a crucial role in shaping the landscape of cannabis payments. Innovations in payment processing, blockchain technology, and compliance management platforms will provide businesses and card brands with secure, efficient, and compliant payment solutions, further driving the industry’s growth and adoption.

The potential for increased mainstream acceptance

Over time, increased mainstream acceptance of cannabis is expected to positively impact payment acceptance. As regulations evolve, public opinion changes, and the market matures, card brands have the opportunity to position themselves as leaders in this growth industry, ultimately helping to further normalize cannabis payments.

Opportunities for innovation and disruption in the payment industry

The emergence of cannabis payments presents numerous opportunities for innovation and disruption in the payment industry. By embracing the unique requirements and challenges of the cannabis industry, card brands can leverage their expertise, technologies, and networks to revolutionize payment solutions and create new avenues for growth and profitability.


In conclusion, Shield Compliance’s open letter advocates for card brands to recognize the potential of accepting cannabis payments and to actively engage in the cannabis industry. By addressing the limitations faced by cannabis businesses, card brands can contribute to enhancing transparency, accountability, and security within the industry. Shield Compliance, as a compliance management platform, stands ready to support the evolving needs of the cannabis industry and facilitate collaboration between card brands and businesses. It is with collective efforts, adaptation, and a commitment to compliance that both the cannabis industry and card brands can thrive and contribute to the socioeconomic growth of the broader community.



  1. Shield Compliance. (2021, March 1). Open Letter to Card Brands. Retrieved from [Shield Compliance website].
  2. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Drug Scheduling. Retrieved from [DEA website].
  3. U.S. Department of the Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. (n.d.). The Bank Secrecy Act: Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from [FinCEN website].



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