The spread of legalizaiton
The November elections saw a number of states decriminalize the purchase, possession, and consumption of marijuana, and it’s now legal in more than half the nation. However, despite the move towards legalization continuing to spread, state by state, we’ve written before about barriers to entry into the field, including a lack of access to banks and credit unions.
“Good people don’t smoke marijuana”
Legal though it might be in some places, it’s still not a universally popular position that it ought to be, nor that ancillary businesses that support legal marijuana dispensaries ought to have access to banking. Jeff Sessions, the nominee for the Attorney Generalship and US senator from Alabama, has taken a vociferous and clear stance. Calling marijuana “dangerous” and commenting that “good people don’t smoke marijuana”, Sessions’ angst over the drug was noted as far back as 1986, when his bid for a federal judgeship was scuttled after testimony from Justice Department colleagues about his behavior while posted as the US Attorney in Mobile.
In direct testimony, Sessions was alleged to have joked that the Ku Klux Klan “was O.K. until I found out they smoked pot.”
If his position is clear, it’s not as if he’s been the only federal voice that’s not relented. In 2016, the Justice Department refused to both legalize it, or to reclassify it on the controlled substance chart, choosing to leave it as a Schedule I controlled substance, making it the legal equivalent of heroin. But while it’s illegal to possess it, current federal law prohibits the Justice Department from spending money for interdiction or prosecution efforts in states where it’s been legalized.
Legal, except for the profits
So, it’s federally illegal to possess it, but the Justice Department can’t do anything to enforce those laws in the states in which it’s illegal. In the states in which it’s legal, it’s legal, sure, but the profits from the businesses can’t be deposited in banks that hold a federal charter, so it’s an all-cash business. A Catch-22 for the 21st century, to be sure.
In late 2016, ten US senators sent a letter to the Acting Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), decrying the situation and identifying yet again the concerns that they have from their constituents, including both those directly involved in the marijuana business and those who aren’t, that restricting this segment of the business community to a cash-only trade “jeopardizes community safety, limits economic growth, and greatly expands the opportunity for tax fraud.”
“Most banks and credit unions have either closed accounts or simply refused to offer services to indirect and ancillary businesses that service the marijuana industry,” the letter stated.
“A large number of professionals have been unable to access the financial system because they are doing business with marijuana growers and dispensaries.”
Who is being affected?
These ancillary professions include vendors that work directly with the marijuana dispensaries, such as field chemists, security firms, attorneys, and repairmen alike. “Locking lawyers, landlords, plumbers, electricians, security companies, and the like out of the nation’s banking and finance systems serves no one’s interest,” the letter continued. Having these professionals unable to access bank accounts has become problematic for them as well, with some being placed in the unenvious position of having to choose between turning down business or finding themselves unable to go to the bank.
FinCEN and the Justice Department had provided guidance to the banking industry previously, in 2014, giving them the authority and ability to do business legally with the marijuana industry, but it hasn’t yet been universally adopted, nor, in the opinion of the senators, adequately addressed the additional issues that still surface.
Business is business
“These people are businessmen,” said Burton Marks. “Maybe they’re in a dirty business that you don’t like, but nevertheless they are in business.”
Marks’ comments came 33 years ago, in 1973, speaking to the US Supreme Court in his defense of Marvin Miller, who had been convicted of obscenity in California for his work as the purveyor of adult magazines and pictures.
The businesses are markedly different, but the sentiment is the same: it’s time that legal businesses were treated on morally neutral grounds and that protections that legal businesses enjoy were extended to all on a neutral basis.
Anyone can invest in startups in a new, more bite-sized way
(BUSINESS FINANCE) With this new platform, startups can now seek funding in different ways than the traditional paths, using blockchain to set themselves up for financial success.
Blockchain’s democratization of currency and investing continues to roll along, and it has just dug it claws into startup funding and investing.
A startup up called Securitize wants to offer an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) platform service for startups. The company believes this platform improves the equity experience on both sides of the aisle.
For startups, the ICO format streamlines the access to capital “without the overhead of needing to cultivate personal relationships and go through individual due diligence procedures.” Put simply, it takes less time and logistics to earn funding.
That trend of reducing logistical issues is also beneficial for investors. Traditionally, being a startup investor or equity holder is restrictive for numerous reasons. For outside investors, there are restrictions around investor accreditation to determine who can invest, and how much. Employees compensated with equity struggle with getting equity converted into an actual asset, if it ever gets converted at all.
According to Securitize, thanks to the ICO format, “investors can buy-in knowing the assets are completely liquid from day one.”
Furthermore, because currency investments differ from traditional business investing, more people can get in on the action.
That last point is important, since investing in cryptocurrencies this year is a bajillion times larger than the volume being pointed at startups. When these two world convene, startups get more eyes (and more dollars) pointed at their companies.
All that said, the floodgates aren’t open to free-market bedlam investing by anybody’s Uncle Ricky. Take 22x, a Securitize project that offers “tokenized equity in 30 startups – up to 10 percent of each.” For this project, you must be an accredited investor with a yearly income of 200k and a net worth over $1 million. These restrictions (among others) still allow Securitize to operate within the rules of US law; however, that barrier is still lower than traditional venture capital firm accreditations.
The implications of a more diversified set of funding will be interesting. Perhaps companies will be able to prioritize their journeys differently to align with new funding incentives. Its certainly a worth option to consider, and one that is important to follow as the first sets of companies embrace it.
New platform for buying and selling side projects
(BUSINESS NEWS) A brand new online marketplace posts side projects available for purchase by the public – it’s a good time to take a peek.
It seems there are so many great ideas out there in the world that I often wonder how these ideas are exposed to the right people in order to survive. When someone is just getting off the ground with a startup or a side hustle, they may not have the budget to hire help (i.e. a marketing team or a public relations team) to buy the exposure they need for success.
Hustling, networking, and word-of-mouth often help in these situations, but wouldn’t it be great to expose your idea to the exact person who could benefit from it? Transferslot agrees with this and has created an online portal where individuals can post their side project, and people interested can purchase them.
According to their website, “Transferslot is a curated marketplace where side projects founders can expose their product to our Trusted Buyer community.” Transferslot was originally created with the intention of being used for Product Hunt projects being sold, but is now open to anyone.
The user interface is simple (this is both a compliment and a critique). It’s almost like an online version of the bulletin board that used to hang in your high school with flyers for all of the clubs being offered.
The side projects are listed on the front page of the site and are organized by date (with the newest showing up first). There is then the name of the projects and a description.
Below this includes prices, arranged by: MRR, profits, and asking price. There is a green circle in the corner of each box that will indicate if a project is still available for purchase.
Transferslot allows users to join their mailing list and request access to their Trusted Buyer Program. By joining the mailing list, you will get new projects sent directly to your email inbox. And by requesting access to the Trusted Buyer Program, you will “Get prime access to incredible side projects with great potential. Uncover hidden gems before anyone else,” the company touts.
When you click for more information on each side project, it gives more detail on deals that are pending with potential buyers. There is then a contact form available for you to fill out to get in touch with the owner.
Transferslot seems like an interesting concept but is still in the early stages, given the list of side projects on the home page. However, it could be a cool place to check for investment opportunities or to sell your side project.
How cryptocurrency works – basic vocabulary and concepts
(FINANCE) Cryptocurrency is a concept that dates back a decade, but as it becomes newly mainstream, many are struggling to catch up – knowing the basic concepts can get you up to speed.
One of the most exciting things to arise out of new technology is the idea of better ways to optimize and improve concepts that we already find in the real world. None of us should be surprised when that includes currency.
With cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, Dash, NEM, Ethereum Classic, Monero, and Zcash (to name a few), it may be hard for the average consumer not to just keep up, but to know what’s going on in this revolution in our modern day economy. Knowing how crypto works makes you a better consumer, as well as investor in your future. Let’s get started with the basics.
What is a cryptocurrency?
To ask what cryptocurrency is, one should also contemplate what modern day paper or coin currency is. At its most basic, all currencies share this core trait: you can exchange a unit (or units) which has predetermined value for either goods or services. Whether it’s dollars, Yen, the gold standard, or Dogecoin, all of these currencies allow you to complete basic transactions.
Where cryptocurrency is different, is how these transactions are completed and how cryptocurrencies are processed.
How does crypto differ from common currencies?
Cryptocurrency allows you to send money directly peer-to-peer (p2p) electronically instead of operating through third-party systems like banks or governments.
The technology that makes this happen is called Blockchain. Blockchain technology is the primary difference between the dollars in your wallet and the virtual currencies in your crypto wallet. The Litecoin School of Crypto uses a great analogy to explain how blockchains work:
“In its simplest form, blockchain is data. It’s a list of recorded information called “blocks” strung together in a chain. Think of blocks as folders stuffed with information i.e. how much Litecoin was sent, who sent it, and who received it. The great thing about blockchains is that it’s public and anyone in the world can see it.”
How does a normal crypto transaction work?
Here’s an example using the fictional cryptocurrency, bitquarters: Karen owes Jamal 10 bitquarters for her movie ticket, so she’s going to pay him back. Karen first requests the transaction through her digital wallet. Because of the nature of cryptocurrency, she can’t send him bitquarters she doesn’t have (there is no “overdrawn” account status in crypto, like modern banks), so it’s a good thing she just got paid!
When Karen initiates the transaction, she uses her private key to virtually “sign” it. When a transaction is completed, an individual will “sign” their transaction with their private key – the reason why cryptocurrency is called as such is because of encryption, after all. The requested transaction is sent via peer-to-peer (p2p) sharing to a network of computers called nodes. These computers validate Karen’s key and verify the transaction.
After the transaction is verified, it is added to the blockchain, the virtual ledger, that all bitquarter users have access to. After that is finished, in only a matter of seconds, Jamal is paid!
What is this cryptocurrency “mining” thing I’ve been hearing so much about?
Mining is a vital part of the cryptocurrency transaction. Miners are the only individuals in the crypto process that can confirm transactions. Their job is to take a transaction, to verify that it is legitimate, and spread them p2p in the network.
To make it a part of the public ledger (the blockchain) every node has to add it to its database. Because mining takes a computer’s energy and electricity to perform, miners are rewarded with small amounts of cryptocurrency per transaction (like how you pay to pull money from an ATM). However, to prevent fraudulent transactions, a computer must solve an encrypted puzzle in order to add it to the blockchain.
What are other important crypto terms I need to know?
Address: the only piece of information that needs to be used for a transaction, similar to a user name or email address. Each transaction uses a different address.
Block: a unit of data in the blockchain that holds and validates transactions. A blockchain is where all blocks of transactions reside.
Double spend: the action of trying to spend cryptocurrency to two different recipients simultaneously. Mining as well as the blockchain prevent malicious actions such as this from taking place.
Cryptocurrency is held up by some as being the currency of the future, while many others think that due to over-speculation, that it will be a investment bubble with irrevocable consequences for brick and mortar institutions. Regardless of any market forecasters perspective on cryptocurrency, the technology is here to stay and knowing the basic vocabulary can help you understand where things are going.
Don’t be intimidated by all of the language around this concept – if you choose to dive into the crypto waters, you’ll learn as you go along. If you invest in stocks, you know a specific concept and vocabulary list, and crypto functions differently but is just another finance mechanism, both of which can be overwhelming but learning the parts necessary to your goals is all that matters.
PS: If you’re more of a visual person, there’s a short video available that has circulated that explains Bitcoing well, and applies to crypto in general.
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