It’s been three years since Canada first legalized recreational cannabis and yet it appears that legal BC cannabis retailers are still stained by the stigma that existed before legalization and are struggling to obtain basic financial services from major banks. One such retail cannabis licensee, Charles Varabioff, owner of Kingsway Cannabis in Vancouver, told CBC that he heard “No” from several banks when trying to open a business account. The banks said it was “too risky”.
The Association of Canadian Cannabis Retailers (ACCRES) noted that 50 of its 52 BC members, “have been denied access at traditional banks, and have turned to local credit unions instead”. Jaclynn Pehota, executive director of ACCRES, surmises that because cannabis is illegal in many countries in which Canada’s larger banks operate, there is a hesitancy to take on a cannabis business for fear of somehow being red flagged.
Mike Schilling, President and CEO of Community Savings, says that his credit union represents more than 50 BC cannabis retailers. Schilling believes that although the legal BC cannabis industry is highly regulated “the shadow of prohibition still looms large over the industry”.
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