The refusal of Canada’s major banks to work with the legal cannabis industry represents a troubling lack of accountability while bolstering the black market, say industry advocates.

The problem is so bad that even the Cannabis Council of Canada, the Ottawa-based organization that lobbies on behalf of licensed cannabis businesses, can’t open an account at any of Canada’s five big banks.

“We don’t touch cannabis, we work with regulated players,” said George Smitherman, president and CEO of the Cannabis Council of Canada. “Still, the only (bank) we can get an account from is Alterna Savings.”

And even that doesn’t come cheap, he said. “Because we’re in the cannabis space, they charge us $4,000 per year and $100 a month for basic banking services, and I’m talking about an organization with less than $1 million in annual activity,” Smitherman said. Accessing banking is a well-worn problem across Canada’s licensed cannabis space.

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