Royal Bank of Canada and Scotiabank have both stated that they won’t let operations involved in the cannabis industry open or continue to use accounts.
Peripheral operations, like stores selling pipes and bongs, have also been told they won’t be served by the banks.
Hemp Country owner Nathan MacLellan told CBC that after a decade with Scotiabank he was informed by mail that his account would be cancelled.
“It’s kind of insulting really, especially when legalization is right on the horizon,” MacLellan said. “Nothing in the store that we sell is illegal. Every single variety store sells pipes and bongs nowadays, so why are they singling us out all of a sudden?”
MacLellan eventually was able to use a local credit union for banking services.
Canopy Growth Corp CEO Bruce Linton said he received a letter from RBC a year ago that stated the bank was cancelling the business’s account, and that other licensed producers have received similar letters.
“My gut feeling is that probably someone in risk analysis somewhere determined that marijuana was a topic which had uncertainty surrounding it,” Linton said. “So rather than looking at determining which [companies] were in concert with the laws and which were not, all were treated the same.”
A spokesperson for Scotiabank said the bank wouldn’t comment on the story due to privacy issues.
“We consider our stringent risk management practices a key strength of our business,” the spokesperson said. “This is why the bank has taken the decision to close existing small business accounts and to prohibit the opening of new accounts for customers classified as ‘marijuana-related business.”
He went on to say the bank may change its position in the future.
Royal Bank also said it won’t provide services to companies”engaged in the production and distribution of marijuana.”