Financial Services for the Cannabis Industry: A Comprehensive Guide

9-minute read | Sep 20, 2023

Over 400,000 people currently work in the cannabis industry in some capacity. If you are one of them, you know how difficult and stressful the simple act of banking can be when you’re making a living in cannabis. But times are changing for the better.

Managing your hard-earned money doesn’t have to be so frustrating. Access to banking services like checking and savings accounts, loans, and mortgages is available for cannabis employees through Salal Credit Union.

Cannabis business owner at cultivation warehouse.Unlike many financial institutions that remain hesitant to offer banking services to the cannabis sector due to federal restrictions, Salal stands out as a supportive partner for people who work with cannabis. We understand the challenges cannabis professionals and businesses face in securing financial services. While other institutions might abruptly close your account and leave you scrambling, Salal is committed to providing a stable and reliable foundation for cannabis entrepreneurs like you to manage your finances, establish credit, take out loans, and grow new ventures. As a member, you have access to a full suite of products and services—just like a Salal member who works in any other industry.

Not Your Traditional Bank

Salal is a financial co-op, which means it’s different from a traditional bank. We’re not run by—or beholden to—profit-focused shareholders. Salal is member-owned and we operate as a not-for-profit financial institution. Our all-volunteer board of directors are all Salal Credit Union members. We don’t siphon profits to distant investors, but instead we return them to our members through higher deposit rates, lower loan rates, and support for important causes in your community. This slow, steady, and sustainable growth model helps ensure our credit union stays on a sound financial footing and keeps your deposits safe.

We also help our members make the most of new opportunities (the “credit” part of “credit union”). While your deposits are earning interest, we can use some of that money to make loans to qualifying individuals and businesses—including those who might not be able to get loans from larger banks that are reluctant to work with the cannabis industry. And the stronger our credit union is, the more people we can help and the more we can give back to the communities we serve.

We Treat You Like Everyone Else

At Salal, we recognize that a stigma remains around the cannabis industry and the plant in general, and we know that our work must extend beyond the day-to-day details of banking. In other words, it’s about more than just a bank account; it’s about empowering people. That’s why we actively work to raise awareness about the banking services available to cannabis businesses and employees and counter the myth that people who work in this industry can’t get bank accounts. Because at Salal, all our members are treated the same no matter what industry you work in.

We also do outreach to cannabis industry employees to educate them on the benefits of having a bank account, as well as the risks of going without one. Managing finances in a cash-based scenario is not easy. We want you to avoid the high fees associated with check-cashing services or the hassles of having to use money orders to pay for your utility bills and other monthly expenses. Plus, it’s much easier to take care of all those little everyday money management tasks when you have access to the Salal digital app. Purchases, deposits, withdrawals, bill payments, sending money to friends, shopping online—it’s all fast and easy. And if you ever do need cash, you can always hit an ATM or swing by a branch. Plus, digital banking features make it easy to track your spending and set up custom alerts to give you updates about your account.

Salal’s Financial Services

We offer cannabis industry professionals a full suite of banking and lending services:

  • Checking accounts
  • Savings accounts
  • Auto loans (including RVs, motorcycles, etc.)
  • Home lending
  • High-yield CDs (certificates of deposit)
  • Business accounts
  • Business loans

Everyday Banking

All Salal checking accounts come with a wide range of great features, including a Mobile Banking app and Online Banking, Mobile Wallets and Mobile Check Deposit, along with access to 40,000+ fee-free ATMs and nearly 5,800 Shared Branches nationwide. We also offer checking options that allow you to earn interest on your account balance.

If you are looking to start a savings account or earn more interest on the savings you already have, we have a range of savings tools to help you reach your goals. Take certificates of deposit (CDs), for example. If you are able to set aside some money and not touch it for a set amount of time, you can earn a higher savings rate. The “term” of the CD is the amount of time you need to leave your money in the account before you get the full return. When you reach the end of the term, your CD reaches maturity, and you do something else with those savings or reinvest them in another CD. We offer terms ranging from 6 months to 4 years. Generally speaking, the longer the term, the higher your savings rate and the more you earn. Many of our members like CDs because, unlike the stock market that goes up and down, you know ahead of time what your return on investment will be. Plus, your deposits are insured by the NCUA up to $250,000 (and there are ways to get even higher amounts insured).

Building Credit for Credit Cards, Loans, and Mortgages

Having a bank account instead of only using cash can also help you build a credit history. The reality is, if you don’t have a credit history, it’s harder to get any of those things we just mentioned above (car, house, credit card). A bank account can help you establish a credit history, which lenders will consider when deciding whether to lend you money or not. Having bad credit or no credit history can even lead to your car insurance costing more each month—even if you have a sparkling clean driving record. For those just starting (or restarting) their credit-building journey, we have a checking program designed specifically for those in the process of building or repairing their credit.

Having a checking account and paying your bills on time is a key first step to building good credit. Getting a credit card is the next step. Our Secured Visa card is designed to help people build and re-establish credit. To open a Secured Visa, you need to have a Salal basic savings or Money Market account. Your savings serve as collateral, with your credit limit determined by the amount you have in your savings account. Using the card and making timely payments can help boost your credit score.

One of the many benefits to having good credit is the ability to apply for financing. Salal offers cannabis industry professionals standard credit cards (as opposed to the savings-secured Visa), personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, and more. And if you do qualify for a loan or Visa card, you will often pay a lower rate at Salal than you would with a for-profit bank.

Why Salal’s Cannabis History Matters

Salal was founded in 1948 by a group of healthcare professionals who believed that we are stronger as a community when we work together. The motto of the credit union movement is “people helping people.” From the beginning, part of our mission has been to help people who have had challenges gaining access to financial services.

When recreational cannabis was legalized in Washington State, many banks and credit unions didn’t want to take on the risk and added compliance burdens that come with serving the cannabis industry. But Salal was up for the task. Starting in 2014, we became a national leader in cannabis banking. We’ve worked closely with state regulators every step of the way to provide a safe and legal way for cannabis businesses to access vital banking services.

As more voters and legislatures legalized recreational cannabis, we expanded our services to more states. We currently work with cannabis businesses and employees, primarily in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, and Alaska. But we also have cannabis business members in Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Michigan. And we currently work with ancillary (non-plant touching) businesses in eight other states.

But, establishing cannabis banking was no easy task. We had to be adaptable, do a lot of “outside the box” thinking, and learn to see potential issues ahead of time. We needed to have many more compliance staff members than a typical credit union to handle the added regulatory tasks that come with cannabis banking. And, because of the uncertainty at the federal level, there are still some services we can’t offer. For example, we aren’t yet able to send wires internationally and certain payment-solutions providers will not work with us.

Beyond helping the cannabis industry grow and thrive, one of the main goals of our cannabis banking programs is to enhance public safety. 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), this could become a public safety concern. Having large amounts of cash stored at a business, or having employees deal with risky cash drops, can raise the risk of armed robbery and money laundering. Our cash management services, including armored car pick-ups and smart safe deposit services, are designed to keep staff and customers more secure. We also partner with cash-free payment platforms to help businesses reduce the amount of cash being stored at their retail locations.

Banking That Builds Stronger Communities

Doing your banking with Salal doesn’t just make it easier to manage your day-to-day finances and build your savings. When you do your banking with Salal, you’re also helping support positive action towards building stronger, healthier, and more sustainable communities.

Salal is also committed to giving 5% of our annual income to help people and causes our members care about. Our approach to giving centers on four main pillars: healthcare, housing insecurity, social equity, and renewable energy. Since 2020, Salal has donated more than $880,000 to local communities through our 5% Promise program. We also give back to the communities we serve through The Salal Foundation, giving $345,000 to support clean energy and housing insecurity initiatives.

Just one of the many examples of how Salal members are making a difference: our partnership with GRID Alternatives. GRID is an organization that works to build community-powered solutions to advance economic and environmental justice through renewable energy. In 2022, Salal donated $30,000 in funding that supported four solar industry workforce development programs. These programs provided hands-on job training opportunities with a focus on making opportunities accessible and inclusive for groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in the solar industry, including women, people of color, and those impacted by the criminal justice system. See our Community Impact page for many more examples of the impact Salal members are making.

Work in Cannabis? Bank With Us.

For employees within the cannabis industry, finding secure and reliable banking options is challenging due to the industry’s unique nature. But options do exist to safely bank, build your savings and credit, get loans, and avoid the many pitfalls of a cash-only existence.

When cannabis businesses partner with Salal, you gain access to banking services tailored to your specific needs, while feeling secure that your bank is operating in compliance with the local and state regulatory frameworks.

Salal Credit Union is a valuable ally for anyone seeking a reliable banking partner in the cannabis industry. Cannabis professionals can go here to apply today and become a member. Cannabis business owners who want to learn more about Salal’s Business Banking services can connect with a Business Banking Officer at 206.298.9398 or BusinessInquiries@SalalCU.org.

Have Questions? We’re Here to Help

We know this is a lot of info to digest, especially if you’re not familiar with these types of bank accounts. But we’re here to help! Give us a call at 800.562.5515 and a Salal team member will be happy to help you find the checking or savings account that’s right for you.

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