Written and Photographed by Armando Ramirez
4/20 Edition, 2023.
Despite cannabis being legal both recreationally and medically in the state of Oregon, there are still many barriers regarding cannabis not being federally legal. One of those barriers is banking.
Currently, there are only two banking institutions in Oregon that allow cannabis business accounts, which are WAUNA Credit Union and MAPS Credit Union. It is important to note that traditional “banks” are federally regulated institutions that will not accept cannabis business accounts due to cannabis still being illegal federally. Credit Unions, on the other hand, have different rules and tend to be regulated by the state where they are located, meaning that some have the ability to accept cannabis-related bank accounts.
Due to the small number of credit unions that accept cannabis business accounts, prices to open an account are extremely high. Paul Hampshire, the owner of Eugene-based cannabis processor Full Circle Extraction Co., said, “Normal business bank accounts with a normal bank may cost you, for a small business, $15-$50 a month. To have a cannabis bank account, it’s ten times that. It’s closer to $400-$500 per month just to have the account. That’s another huge unnecessary hardship that a lot of small businesses have to take on.”
While paying $400 to $500 monthly for a bank account may be manageable for larger businesses, it can cause an issue for smaller businesses within the cannabis industry. Many of these businesses are already struggling to compete in today’s cannabis market. Smaller businesses within the cannabis industry could benefit from receiving financial help from banking institutions, like many similar businesses in any other industry.
Oregon cannabis attorney Paul Loney said, “Some of these businesses that are kind of struggling right now, and if they could get like a loan it could allow them to make it through this rough patch.” Unfortunately, the credit unions that do accept cannabis businesses in Oregon do not issue loans to their clients. This means that if cannabis businesses are in need of a loan they must find an alternative other than a bank or credit union. “They have to go to private lenders which cost a lot of money, which is not good,” Loney said.
While banking itself causes issues for businesses in the cannabis industry, not having an account is an even bigger problem. Rick Harder, owner of Eugene-based cannabis producer Oregon Cannabis Authority, experienced these issues around a year ago when attempting to pay taxes without having a cannabis business account. According to Harder, at the time, if you owned a cannabis business without a bank account for the business, taxes had to physically be paid in cash to the Department of Revenue. For Harder, however, the Department of Revenue would not accept the thousands of dollars in cash that Harder had on hand, as a result of running his business without a bank account.