What You’ll Learn
- Get helpful tips for businesses getting ready to apply for a cannabis banking account at Salal.
- Learn the states where Salal currently serves cannabis businesses.
Q: What makes the process of opening a business banking account for a cannabis business different than for a non-cannabis business? What options do cannabis entrepreneurs have in the current banking landscape?
Christa Kemp: Opening a business banking account as a cannabis business owner does involve more steps than a non-cannabis business due to the perceived risk and added compliance burdens. This complexity often leads big national banks to avoid serving the cannabis industry, despite recreational cannabis being legalized in many states. Because of this, cannabis entrepreneurs often find their banking solutions at smaller institutions like community credit unions and banks, which can sometimes be a good thing because these smaller institutions can tailor their services to the needs of the cannabis industry.
Q: What makes banking for the cannabis industry different?
Christa: If you’re venturing into the cannabis industry, be ready for stricter compliance controls and additional paperwork compared to getting an account for a non-cannabis business. This is mainly due to cannabis still being illegal at the federal level and highly regulated in the states where it’s legal.
Q: How long has Salal Credit Union been doing cannabis business banking? How did they become involved in banking this industry?
Christa: Salal has been a leader in this area. We’ve been providing banking solutions for licensed and regulated cannabis businesses since 2014. We’ve worked closely with state regulators to offer cannabis businesses a wide range of dependable banking services. Salal’s CEO, Russ Rosendal, has also been active for many years in efforts to advocate for cannabis industry banking, both at the state level and in Washington, D.C.
Being one of the original financial institutions in the country to start a cannabis banking program, the experience we have here at Salal makes us a more dependable partner for businesses. We’ve seen some financial institutions start cannabis banking programs only to shut them down because the compliance requirements are just too much. We’re in it for the long haul, as they say.
We’re also trying to take away the stigma that folks in the cannabis industry sometimes face. I think our banking services play a role in addressing this stigma. It’s an important part of what we do.
Back in 2014, when we first started doing cannabis banking, we had three main goals. It became clear early on that if cannabis businesses were forced to keep a large amount of cash on hand—because they couldn’t put it in a bank account—that this could become a public safety concern. Having large amounts of cash stored at a business can raise the risk of armed robbery and money laundering. We also saw the potential for the cannabis industry to provide jobs and increase tax revenues for our communities, which led us to partner with the state regulators to find a path forward for cannabis banking. And, with our credit union’s roots in the healthcare industry, our board of directors was interested in the potential to advance the research of the health benefits medical cannabis can have for patients suffering from chronic health issues.
Q: What banking services does Salal offer cannabis businesses?
Christa: We offer a wide range of services, such as cash management, business checking accounts, business debit cards, commercial equipment lending, and much more. We also provide full-service personal banking for business owners and their employees.
We also have trusted referral partners that offer cannabis-compliant payroll solutions and cash-free payment options. Offering your customers a cashless purchase option can really boost the average size of your sales. Plus, having less cash on hand can improve safety at your retail stores.
Q: What documents does a business need to do to gather together when applying for an account?
Christa: Before starting the application process, businesses need to gather several documents such as business registration, IRS SS-4 letter, signed business formation documents, and so on. Cannabis-related businesses also need to provide a written summary of their business operations, experience, and the source of start-up or operating funds. For more info on this, see our recent blog on how cannabis businesses can get ready to apply for a business account at Salal.
Q: Anything you’d like to note about the application process itself?
Christa: The application is entirely virtual, done through a digital platform that makes the process simple and streamlined. We also have our Business Applications team available, if you ever need any help. When a business is completing the application, it’s not mandatory for the signer or business owner to upload the required documents. It can be done by a lawyer, a CPA, or even a friend. This can help make the process easier.
Q: Salal is headquartered in Seattle, but cannabis businesses outside of Washington can also open accounts, right?
Christa: Yes, we currently work with businesses primarily in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska. But we also have cannabis business members in Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan. We also currently work with ancillary businesses in eight other states. These are non-plant touching businesses, such as accounting firms, law firms, and businesses that make products to be used with cannabis products. Businesses outside of Washington State need to become members of the Salal Foundation* to apply, which is very easy to do.
We’re Here to Help
Are you considering taking the next step toward opening a bank account for your cannabis business? Christa and the rest of the Salal Business Services team are always happy to share more info about the application process, review the wide range of services we offer, and help you start your application. Connect with a Salal Business Banking Officer at 206.298.9398 or BusinessInquiries@SalalCU.org.