Cannabis Banking with The CEO of Artery Pay Ashley Elsner
Ashley Elsner was able to find relief from her chronic pain condition (CRPS Type two) using cannabis. This plant medicine was the only thing that helped her, even after trying just about everything else. Being a patient led her to take interest in the cannabis industry and coming from a financial background, she immediately focused on the banking problems the cannabis industry is facing.
Ashley studied economics in college and went directly into merchant banking afterwards. Her fairly new company ArteryPay works similarly to Venmo – but for weed!
Learn more from our interview at The National Women of Cannabis Conference.
Tell us your story? Where are you from?
I’m originally from Georgia. I went school up East and ended up working in a financial institution, law and operations, for about 15 years and on the East coast. I ended up out in California – that’s where I am now.
Strawberry Sequoia and Ashley Elsner in Front of The CannaVan
How did you get into cannabis?
I’m actually a cannabis patient and so I did a little voting with my feet as happens when you need access to something that you can’t get where you are. I have a condition called CRPS type two. It’s a very nasty pain condition that goes along the neuropathic pain ways.
Cannabis is the only thing that I was able to find that actually worked for it. I was very fortunate to find it. I had spent over a decade trying all types of other medications and even tried some extreme treatments like surgical Nerve entrapment releases, and all kinds of lifestyle changes. I really tried everything.
The first time I tried cannabis, it was an incredibly moving moment for me. I cried because it was the first time in over 10 years that I was pain-free. I found that the pain relieving benefits actually lasted for 24 hours. So while I had been concerned about what kind of impact it would have on me professionally, I found that I could actually take it at night.
The pain relieving benefits would last 24 full hours before I would need to re-dose. That’s well beyond any bad impact that it could have. And then of course, it’s fantastic for sleep. It just ended up working out really well as a treatment option for me and helped me come off of some of those other more difficult to tolerate treatments that I was already on.
People’s medical treatment should be between them and their doctors. There should not be so much impatience with people. I’m trying to just survive. I’ve never really understood why our society chose that path [criminalizing cannabis]. But the fact is there’s a lot of corrective action that’s happening right now, which is very promising. It is inspiring.
When I saw the financial problems that were going on in the space as well and the lack of support that was coming from our corporate financial world, I knew I had to do something.
I took political science at Yale and this is one of those things where you can see the path changing and correcting. There are so many positive benefits. From criminal justice reform, to economic, to patient care, to safety. I mean it’s fantastic.
So tell us a little bit about what you do?
I actually used to be in merchant banking, so this is my wheelhouse. I studied economics and that was my first job out of college.
My company is called ArteryPay. We recently joined an institution called Artra financial as our parent company. What’s really lovely about this product is that it works very similarly to Venmo. There is no card processing involved.
The card processing itself is not illegal because card processing is illegal. It’s illegal because the card processing networks refused to work with this space. They will not provide the merchant category codes, which means that anytime somebody is trying to process a transaction using a card, it’s being miscoded. That’s money laundering, plain and simple.
It has to do with the institutions. It has nothing to do actually with the law. Now, if you were to report these transactions correctly to the government, there’s no money laundering. But that’s the problem is it’s not being reported correctly. It never will be while the card networks are not actively allowing cannabis transactions to occur on their system.
That also creates problems because obviously if you’ve got problems with merchant banking, you’ve got problems with banking as well, right? You have to have a place to be able to deposit those funds and that’s a bit of a problem as well.
So What Are People Doing Right Now?
I know plenty of people out in Massachusetts right now that are sending interns with backpacks full of cash to the bank. They’re being followed by the cartel. They’re being followed by gang members to the bank. You’re sitting there with $60,000 bucks in cash sitting in a backpack. Really? Come on guys.
What other option do you have? It’s terrible. But now we do have another option.
How Does Artery Pay Work?
So this operates very similarly to Venmo except you’re able to use it in commerce, not just in transacting with other people. In that way, it’s different from Zelle. It’s different from Venmo because again, you can use it in commerce.
It supports online commerce as well as in store and even on the go. So if you’re going to a festival, you can actually use it without having to have any additional equipment. It’s totally integratabtle with other software systems because it’s set up that way.
From the consumer interface, and this is what I’m really excited about up with our joining up with Artra, they have this fantastic consumer interface that is going to make engaging with the consumer from a merchant perspective much, much easier.
We’re talking about increased foot traffic, of course sales lift because you’re no longer operating on cash, right? Then you’re also talking about consumer loyalty. There are plenty of opportunities there to actually bring more people into your store and keep loyal customers coming back, as well as encourage them to engage with brands, and engage with your actual retail store. It’s really an outstanding product.
What Does this Mean for The Cannabis Industry?
It is not fair to expect the cannabis industry to know all the ins and outs of financial institution law. That’s bonkers because it’s highly fragmented, it’s hard enough just to know the law of cannabis. From a financial institution perspective, you’re regulated at a lot of different levels.
It’s a very fragmented regulatory system and the laws that you’re governed by are fragmented as well. It’s a hot mess. I just happened to be a specialist in that. I happen to care a lot about making sure patients have access to this product and that we don’t get derailed on legalization, which is where I think we’re going.
I’ve been working on it for three years. So like this is a fully baked product, it’s not somebody throwing stuff at the wall.
Where can people find more information?
They can go to arterypay.com. That is our primary source right now.
What are you Doing Here at The Women of Cannabis Conference and MJBizCon?
This is a place where you have an opportunity to interact with a lot of other people engaging in the space. It’s hard to find people. The restrictions on advertising of course are a huge problem. It makes it very difficult to find the people who are decision makers within an organization.
I’m here to talk partnerships, to talk about our product with people and try to move some conversations forward. And just to make sure that people understand that we’re out there. They don’t have to have illegal processing. We are affordable and easy to use for your consumer.
We have compliance built into the transaction system, literally the financial compliance that banks have to do is built into our transaction system. It’s done automatically. It ends up making you a much cleaner and easier to track organization from a banking perspective.
If you don’t have banking, you’ll be able to get it with record keeping. If you still have a challenge with banking, you’ll also be able to use us as an alternative to banking. We’re actually able to hold assets and trust. We do work with the armored carriers, on vaulting as well.
While banking is continuing to come on board we are working diligently to bring more banks into the space, new banks that won’t have the capacity constraints. Getting the word out about that is really important to us.
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