Celebrating 10 Years of Cannabis Banking

5-minute read | May 5, 2024

It’s hard to believe that it has already been ten years since Salal Credit Union first began serving the cannabis industry in June 2014. Washington state had recently legalized adult-use cannabis on November 8, 2012, with the passage of Initiative 502, and less than two years later, Salal’s leadership made the strategic decision to both serve an unserved community and to help protect public safety by banking this cash-intensive industry.

But Salal’s decision wasn’t sudden. With Salal’s history of serving the healthcare industry, its leadership had been considering the importance of the cannabis industry even before I-502 passed. In its first six months of offering cannabis accounts, Salal began banking twenty plant-touching businesses, as well as a handful of ancillary companies. Getting cash off the streets, protecting business owners and employees, and discouraging crime were all key goals from the very start.

“Reflecting on our journey, it’s remarkable to consider that we have been supporting the cannabis industry for over a decade,” said Brett Ballman, First Vice President of Business Services and Consumer Lending. “Our decision to provide banking services to the cannabis industry was driven by our core mission to eliminate financial barriers and empower everyday visionaries.”

That’s not to say that it was always easy. “There was apprehension that serving this industry might lead to negative publicity and a loss of members,” recalled Treasury Management Sales Officer Elizabeth Winters. “Surprisingly, the outcome was quite the opposite, as we actually saw an increase in membership. This was attributed to our willingness to support an industry in significant need of assistance.”

This increase in Salal membership led to challenges in growing to serve the demand. “I found myself as the sole team member in Business Services, aside from the VP,” Elizabeth remembered. “The situation was compounded when one of our CPAs discovered our venture into cannabis-related services and alerted their client base, leading to a surge in inquiries flooding our lines.”

Over the past decade, building vendor affiliations has also been an ongoing endeavor. “The most significant hurdle we faced was in finding and retaining a cash logistics partner, a critical partnership required to effectively service the cannabis industry due to the inability to accept credit card payments in the retail stores,” Elizabeth said. “We engaged in extensive research and negotiation to secure a reliable partner, recognizing its indispensable role in serving the unique needs of the cannabis industry.”

Other enhancements were implemented over time in order to protect our members. “Positive Pay stands out as particularly beneficial, as it aids our members in mitigating fraud losses effectively,” Elizabeth emphasized.

Business Services has now grown to over two dozen staffers. “As we mark our tenth anniversary, I’d like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of our team in making our cannabis program successful,” Elizabeth said. “I’m excited to see how our program grows and evolves in the next decade.”

While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, the increasing need for cannabis business banking services led the U.S. Department of Justice to issue guidelines, colloquially known as the “Cole Memo,” which provided cannabis enforcement priorities—while also offering financial institutions such as Salal a pathway toward serving our cannabis members. “We recognize that, like any other sector, the cannabis industry requires and deserves comprehensive financial solutions to meet its unique needs, ranging from cash management to electronic payments and access to lending services,” Brett said. “Moreover, we are hopeful for the progression towards the legalization of cannabis at a federal level.”

As more states have legalized cannabis, the regulatory environment has become more complex nationwide, and Salal expects to continue to expand our staff in order to serve cannabis entrepreneurs in more and more states. “In championing the cannabis industry, we remain committed to not just meeting but exceeding the expectations for comprehensive financial services,” Brett said. “Our vision extends beyond the present, towards a future where these businesses can not only survive but flourish, thereby enriching our economy and society with their innovative contributions.”

In addition to providing dedicated hands-on service each day, we also advocate for our members at conventions and feature our members on our website. Two of the featured businesses, Credible Commodities LLC and Sunny Enterprises Inc., are supported by Associate Business Officer David Krueger, who ensures that their checking and savings accounts, Bill Pay services, and cash logistics are operating smoothly. “Both businesses were extremely happy about having a checking account, as a lot of vendors and customers in this industry still use cash,” David said.

Having joined Salal just over three years ago, David has onboarded many new business members. “In just a few short years, I’ve seen Salal grow from a handful of states to now expanding into more states,” he said. “Our new and existing members continuously praise the service team and appreciate our quick turnaround time in helping them with their requests. Our department is a strong, cohesive group of people who are passionate about their work and are continuously striving to make our members’ experience with us one of the best experiences they can have.”

Now Salal serves over seven hundred licensed and ancillary businesses, as well as providing consumer services for many of the owners and employees of these businesses, and we’re opening dozens of new accounts every quarter. New and current cannabis-related business owners are welcome to visit our cannabis banking information page and to contact us to speak directly to an Account Officer.

And you can help us celebrate too!  Feel free to reach out to your Account Officer to ask about our services or how we might be able to help you in new ways. Here’s to the next ten years and beyond!

Share This Post

Schedule a Free Homebuyer Planning Session

Fill out the form below and one of our Mortgage Advisors will get back to you within 1-2 business days. Their recommendations come with no obligation.

Schedule a Free Homebuyer Planning Session

Fill out the form below and one of our Mortgage Advisors will get back to you within 1-2 business days. Their recommendations come with no obligation.

Schedule a Free Mortgage Review Session

Fill out the form below and one of our Mortgage Advisors will get back to you within 1-2 business days. Their recommendations come with no obligation.

Schedule a Call

Select your state below to schedule a call with the Salal Dealer Direct representative in your region.