Oregon Marijuana Workers Face Hurdles While Applying for Personal Loans
Due to federal prohibition, cannabis business owners and employees are facing immense challenges in securing loans for car payments and mortgages.
Published on April 9, 2017

Oregon’s recreational cannabis system has had an enormous impact on the local economy. While lawmakers valiantly attempt to shield their booming market from federal law enforcement, there are some things that just can’t be protected against so long as marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug.

One of those disadvantages is trouble securing loans from financial institutions. Since cannabis remains illegal under federal law, marijuana-related businesses have been shunned from most federally-regulated banks and credit unions. But these obstacles have also carried over to affect a number of canna-business employees, who are finding it equally difficult to obtain financial assistance for things like mortgages and car payments.  

Despite having a widely approved recreational cannabis system in place, banks and credit unions in Oregon are allowed to deny loan applications for pretty much any reason, as long as discrimination against race, gender or national origin doesn't play a role in the decision. A recent story published by Oregon Public Broadcasting shared the story of Melissa Johnson, who works as a customer service representative at the retail cannabis shop Bloom Well.

Last summer, Johnson purchased a new car from a local dealership in Bend, driving away with an auto loan that came with an adequate payment plan and low interest rate. But one week later, she received a call asking her to return to the dealership, where she found out that her financing had been retroactively denied because of the nature of her profession. Although another loan was eventually obtained, it came with a much higher interest rate and payment.

The reasons for loan denial aren’t just restricted to the employee’s ability to pay, lenders also cited risks they think could could arise from someone working in the cannabis industry. For instance, banks worry that marijuana retail employees could potentially use their vehicle to make deliveries, or use a property that was purchased with a mortgage to start a grow operation.

Some local credit unions will gladly lend money to cannabis employees, but major banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America have been upfront about their lack of understanding. Still, although local credit unions have no issue working with employees in the industry, they have clearly drawn the line at providing commercial loans to marijuana businesses.     

The cannabis workforce in the Beaver State continues to grow, and the issue employee's face when applying for loans is becoming more and more apparent. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has issued around 8,500 marijuana-worker permits already, and another 5,178 are currently pending. Needless to say, as this billion-dollar industry continues to grow in both Oregon and across the country, the need for banking services to comply with cannabis employees and businesses is a looming necessity.

Tyler Koslow
Tyler Koslow is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with an intensive focus on technology, music, pop culture, and of course, cannabis and its impending legalization.
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