Finance Everywhere, Payments

LeafLink processes over $1 billion in wholesale cannabis payments

  • LeafLink, the biggest cannabis wholesale market in the world, has now powered transactions worth $1 billion through its cannabis-payments solution.
  • Around $5 billion worth of cannabis moves around on LeafLink's global wholesale platform annually.

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LeafLink processes over $1 billion in wholesale cannabis payments

Cannabis is a fastly growing industry in the US, and  LeafLink – a leading cannabis wholesale marketplace –  is reaping the benefits of that. The firm’s payments platform, since its 2019 launch,  has now powered transactions worth over $1 billion across 1700 active operators in 22 markets globally.

In 2021, legal sales of cannabis in the US amounted to $25 billion, and by the end of 2022, that number is projected to rise up to $27 billion. With medical and recreational sales combined, MJBiz estimates retail sales in 2021 to already have reached $27 billion, forecasting that to rise up to $33 billion by the end of 2022.

A lack of banking and federal regulations means that brands, distributors, and retailers face distinct business and financial challenges. Traditional solutions do not work here, and big providers won’t touch the business with a 10-feet pole. Hence, industry-specific operators like LeafLink have a vast field to claim with their unique solutions.

“In this industry, many companies, especially those that are plant-touching, have been at a disadvantage from the onset as they have not had the benefit of leveraging traditional banking services like other industries,” Ryan Smith, co-founder, and CEO of LeafLink told Tearsheet. “That’s why we originally set out to develop our payment solutions from the ground up.”

What’s LeafLink?

First launched in 2016, LeafLink, in addition to being the biggest cannabis wholesale platform in the world, also provides logistics management, payment, and financing solutions to, what they call, leaf-touching businesses. With these tools, LeafLink operates with a vision to make it easier for cannabis businesses to create, manage, pay for, and ship their orders so they can focus on growing their businesses.

The firm is today the world’s largest cannabis wholesale marketplace, processing more than $5 billion in orders annually as of 2021, and making up nearly half of U.S. wholesale cannabis commerce.

LeafLink customizes its logistics offerings specifically for each market it operates in. That’s key in an industry where vastly different laws apply in different markets, which can create varied operational environments.

In addition to logistical and shipping solutions, the firm also provides retailer-focused solutions for warehousing, fulfillment, and restocking of inventory. Their technology helps streamline inventory operation, while their suite of payment tools allows buyers and sellers to make and receive payments on their schedule, increasing the speed and security of wholesale transactions.

Last year, LeafLink introduced Flexible Payments solutions, which enables sellers to offer buyers risk-free terms, and a flexible schedule, while still receiving their payment at the time of delivery. In July 2022, a Direct Payments solution was rolled out, which made wholesale transactions faster and safer for sellers and buyers alike and included a new digital onboarding journey that verifies and approves companies for LeafLink Payments in real-time.

One of the key areas where LeafLink really made a difference was figuring out how to assist cannabis businesses in access to credit. Traditional financing routes are obviously not an option for the industry.

“We focus on fueling industry growth through supply chain financing. Because cannabis is still federally illegal, one of the most critical problems plant-touching brands, distributors, and retailers face is their limited access to capital and financial services,” Smith said.

For example, the firm is able to facilitate payments for clients via credit financing. In 2020, the firm raised $250 million in a credit financing deal with a private commercial lender to help provide liquidity to the cannabis supply chain. So when they need to fund payment for a client, they draw the money from that credit facility.

A review of LeafLink’s 2022

LeafLink has felt a little immune to the economic uncertainty affecting companies across industries this year, reporting good business. “Perhaps because of the difficult macroeconomic climate this year, we have continued to see great demand for our offering,” Smith commented.

The firm continued to roll out new tools and services in both logistics and payments, expanding these offerings in states across the country, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Oregon. 

Recently, the firm announced a new pricing model for its products, essentially creating a cost-effective bundle,  along with updates intended to make the user experience more efficient and seamless. The firm claims that by using a bundled package to its full platform, cannabis brands and retailers can save 20% per month on their operational costs.

“With our new full platform pricing model — the first of its kind in the industry — cannabis businesses can streamline and centralize operations for one predictable monthly cost, and reinvest the money they will save on wholesale margins directly back into growing their business,” Smith said.

Leading cannabis businesses, including March and Ash, and Cannalicious, have already signed onto the new pricing plan and are leveraging LeafLink’s full-service platform.

Despite legislative concerns, Smith sees the cannabis industry mature. He argues greater things are to come.

“Regardless of the path of federal legalization, the future of the cannabis industry is incredibly resilient and bright,” he said.

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