PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Financial regulators in Oregon are investigating an alternative banking business in town that advertised itself as a solution for cash-heavy cannabis companies, after the owner of a Portland dispensary raised concerns over tens of thousands of dollars in bounced checks.
Cannabis companies aren’t allowed to use traditional banks because marijuana is federally illegal. Cannabis business owners say that it puts them at a higher risk for financial problems.
Justin Williams has owned Green Front Dispensaries in Portland for a decade and without legal access to a proper bank, he said makes doing business dangerous.
“It doesn’t make me or anyone feel safe. It’s difficult for the staff members because they’re sitting on such a large amount of money that it makes them a target for robberies,” Williams said.
He looked for alternative banking methods and turned to a local Portland company called Left Coast Financial Solutions, but after about a month, checks started bouncing.
At this point, he says he’s had more than $50,000 stolen and can’t get a hold of the people responsible. The Oregon Secretary of State’s records lists Casey Nye-Herrington as the company’s president.
Last month, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden lost an effort to extend banking services to the cannabis industry due to republican opposition.
“I just think the failure to pass SAFE Banking creates a magnet for crime because you have all this cash and nowhere to put it,” Wyden said. “We’re going to be back in the end of January and we’re going to push and push until we can make it clear that public safety comes first not outdated theories about cannabis.”
But in the meantime, dispensary owners are left out to dry.
“The federal government, they want their tax money, the state wants their tax money, the city wants their tax money but they don’t give us the ability to bank through a traditional financial institution,” Williams said.
Ultimately, leaving these businesses left to deal with financial services that aren’t FDIC insured.
KOIN 6 reached out to the company Left Coast Financial Solutions multiple times Thursday, but on Friday when we went to the address that they show on their website, it led us to a post office in Northeast Portland.
The address that the company lists as its principal place of business on the Secretary of State’s records leads to an attorney’s office in downtown Portland. KOIN 6 called their office and they said Left Coast Financial Services do not share an office space with them.
The Department of Consumer and Business Services Financial Regulation Division confirmed that they have an open investigation into Left Coast Financial Solutions, but since it’s an open investigation they can’t comment at this time.