Cannabis-friendly credit unions should be a redundant statement in Canada. After all, in Canada, cannabis is legal. British Columbia contributes over $2 billion annually. All financial institutions, whether big banks or smaller credit unions should be cannabis-friendly. Sadly, this is not the case. Because cannabis is illegal in the US, Canadian banks and large credit unions won’t get involved. “They’re just not willing,” says Mike Schilling, President and CEO of Community Savings Credit Union.
Community Savings, a mid-sized credit union located in BC, has been working with BC’s cannabis community “from the early days from even pre-legalization.” “As you know,” says Mike, “in the industry, it’s a lot of word of mouth, it’s a family in some ways, people say nice things about us and now we’re the largest provider of banking services to retail cannabis in the province and that’s growing all the time.”
On April 20th, 2022, the cannabis-friendly credit union launched a new service called the 18/6 account. The name refers to a cannabis grow-light cycle (lights are on 18 hours, off 6 hours). “We’re trying to tap into a little bit of cannabis culture and have a bit of fun with that,” says Mike. “But there is a serious side to our mission because we meet too many businesses in the industry that are being exploited, really. They’re doing all the hard work and then the financial institutions are charging them thousands and thousands of dollars just to operate a simple account.”
The 18/6 account offers a low monthly fee and a line of credit. And it’s not just for smaller cultivators and retailers. Even some of the larger producers find it difficult to get lines of credit from the traditional institutions.
“We’re approached by cannabis companies who have a listing on the Tokyo stock exchange and their bank won’t give them credit cards,” says Mike. “It’s ridiculous.”
“We approach cannabis lending the way that we do for any business, so that is not to say that we say yes to everybody because we’re a professional lender. We do our checks, but we don’t care whether you’re a cannabis business or any other business, we’ll take the same approach. And we’ll give you the financing that you need to grow and support what you’re doing.”
Cannabis-friendly Credit Union for the People
There is a stigma around cannabis that shouldn’t exist. “It’s not only in financial services,” says Mike, “it’s in all the professional services… People who kind of don’t understand the industry, regulate us, who assume we’re banking biker gangs here, right? I’m trying to explain to them that’s not really the people we deal with.”
Community Savings is a cannabis-friendly credit union that’s been in business for a long time. “We really are bringing the industry together in that way,” says Mike. “What we see are incredibly hard-working, incredibly passionate people putting their heart and soul into this business that they really believe in. Serving their community, and we really get a kick out of working with people like that.”