The account features a $200 monthly fee and a $150 refundable application fee
Given that cannabis is legal in Canada now, you’d think the industry would be riding high on its success. But nearly four years since pot went legit, with financial services still all but denied to growers, it’s just another case of banks being a serious buzzkill.
Mark Jones, COO of Surrey-based Community Savings Credit Union, which has six branches in B.C., thinks it’s the stigma surrounding the industry that’s to blame.
“I've been on the phone with a retailer who was crying,” Jones says. “For over a year, they jumped through every hoop imaginable, invested all of their money in the store, had everything ready to go—all of their document licenses, the blessing of local council, RCMP, municipal authority. And then they went to open an account, and they were treated like criminals everywhere they went.”
To acknowledge and validate the cannabis sector, Community Savings launched the 18/6 bank account (which can be opened online) to lower some of the barriers to banking. Catering to licensed cultivators in the province, the account has a $200 monthly fee and a $150 application fee, the latter refunded after six months of banking.
“The cultivating industry is just starting to blossom in the province now,” Jones notes. “We’re starting to see more cultivator licenses for the craft cultivation space, where you have micro-growers. It’s the mom-and-pop, small version of a grower, someone who’s growing in a relatively smaller space and coming out with a really high-quality product.”
Every business needs a bank account, and the bleak reality is that despite countless hours of due diligence and personal investment to become a licensed cultivator, many cultivators and retailers on the cusp of taking flight are left hanging by financial institutions. “Or, if they do find a partner that’s willing to open an account for them, they're at exorbitant prices, with application fees that go up into the thousands,” Jones says.
As the industry grows, it’s reassuring to know that lines of credit are opening up for cultivators to plant themselves in B.C.