Despite Progress, Banking Still a Problem for the Marijuana Industry


I once heard a prominent member of the cannabis industry state that unless you have insurance and a bank account, than you aren’t a real business. Getting insurance is not always easy in the cannabis industry, but there are numerous companies that will provide insurance to marijuana businesses. Banking on the other hand is something that has proven difficult for the cannabis industry. Despite federal guidelines that were meant to clarify banking and the cannabis industry, many businesses are still waiting for a bank that is willing to work with them. Native American reservations may even look to be an option for dispensaries needing to bank.

Even banks that want to work with the cannabis industry avoid cannabis businesses out of fear of the federal government. Case in point is Mbank. Per Marijuana Business Daily:

MBank, the Oregon-based financial institution that recently announced it would begin serving Colorado marijuana companies, changed its mind and announced on Monday that it doesn’t have the resources necessary to handle demand.

Jef Baker, the bank’s chief executive officer, said inquiries for service had been “overwhelming,” and consequently the bank decided to cancel its plans to operate in Colorado because it’s simply too far from its headquarters, according to the Denver Post.

“Colorado is the farthest from our market area and the most difficult to provide the quality customer service to,” Baker said.

While the bank maintains that this is purely a customer service related move, there have been many rumors that the federal government stepped in and made it clear that there were not going to allow a bank to work with so many different states. There’s no way to know for sure, but it’s odd to say the least that the bank went from all in on working with Colorado businesses to refusing to work with any of them. The cannabis industry needs comprehensive banking reform at the federal level if it’s ever going to reach it’s full potential.

Anthony Johnson

Anthony, a longtime cannabis law reform advocate, was Chief Petitioner and co-author of Measure 91, Oregon's cannabis legalization effort. He served as director of both the New Approach Oregon and Vote Yes on 91 PACs, the political action committees responsible for the state's legalization campaign. As director of New Approach Oregon, Anthony continues to work towards effectively implementing the cannabis legalization system while protecting small business owners and the rights of patients. He sits on the Oregon Marijuana Rules Advisory Committee and fights for sensible rules at the legislature as well as city councils and county commissions across the state. Anthony helps cannabis business comply with Oregon's laws and advises advocates across the country. He also serves as content director of both the International Cannabis Business Conference and the Oregon Marijuana Business Conference, helping share the vision of moving the cannabis industry forward in a way that maintains the focus on keeping people out of prison and protecting patients. He was a member of the Oregon Health Authority Rules Advisory Committee, assisting the drafting of the administrative rules governing Oregon’s state-licensed medical marijuana facilities. He first co-authored and helped pass successful marijuana law reform measures while a law student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. He passed the Oregon Bar in 2005 and practiced criminal defense for two years before transitioning to working full-time in the political advocacy realm. His blogs on Marijuana Politics are personal in nature and don't speak for or reflect the opinions of any group or organization.