If you ask any business owners involved in the cannabis industry what one of their biggest concerns is for our industry, you are likely to hear about access to banking from almost all of them. Sadly, under current federal laws, cannabis businesses are not viewed as legitimate and therefore rarely receive banking services, which is generally due to the administrative burden and potential liability these laws impose on banks holding funds from cannabis businesses. Because of this and other considerations, banks are hesitant to accommodate cannabis businesses.
As discussed in this recent article about the medical cannabis industry in Illinois, there are many troubles with the fact that we have 23 states in the US that currently have recreational or medical cannabis markets, yet no banking is available for any of the companies keeping these markets alive.
Oregon State Representative Tobias Read, who is also on the ballot for Oregon state treasurer, recently championed a cannabis business banking bill in our state this past spring. This bill effectively removed criminal liability for providing financial services to marijuana-related businesses. In a recent interview I did with Rep. Read, he explained the bill and why there is a need for this.
“There is a legitimate industry in Oregon entirely based on cash. Our bill attempts to solve this problem by doing two things: 1) it provides security for banks and credit unions by removing criminal liability from state law when dealing with lawful cannabis businesses, and 2) it directs the Department of Consumer and Business Services to look for long term solutions to this issue over the next several months. There still need to be changes at the federal level, but these are steps in the right direction, and we can’t wait for the federal government to act,” said Rep. Read.
He followed up by saying, “Everyone agrees that this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Regardless of how legislators feel about cannabis, many agree that we need to provide financial services to the industry. “
I agree whole-heartedly with him on that, and hope that many states in our country will soon follow suit with Oregon, and that eventually cannabis businesses will be given the respect and security that they need and deserve as legitimate and hard working businesses.