A small, “old school” credit union in Toronto has emerged as Canada’s leading banking institution for cannabis businesses.
Alterna Savings & Credit Union serves about two-thirds of Canada’s roughly 100 federally licensed growers, owner CEO Rob Paterson told The Globe and Mail.
He also estimated that Alterna has about 750 million Canadian dollars ($585 million) in legal marijuana business loans and deposits.
Though Canada legalized medical cannabis in 1999 and is expected to roll out a recreational program later this summer, many of the nation’s financial services institutions have been reluctant to serve legal marijuana businesses – just like their counterparts in the United States.
Alterna’s first MMJ client was Tweed, a licensed cultivator that is now known as Canopy Growth.
Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton applied for Tweed to become a customer of the credit union in 2015 after being rejected by numerous other banking firms.
Since accepting Linton’s application, Alterna has built a team of six bankers who specialize in the marijuana industry, according to The Globe and Mail.
Alterna, however, may have a hard time keeping its leading cannabis banking position, according to the newspaper, because of Canada’s banking rules.
As a credit union, Alterna can offer checking accounts, savings accounts and loans. However, it is not allowed to handle mergers and stock sales, which are happening more often as Canada’s cannabis industry develops.