Sen. Merkley and Rep. Blumenauer join Tyson Haworth, owner of Oregon’s Finest & sofresh farms, to discuss the banking and tax challenges that legal cannabis companies are facing under current federal law.
Sen. Merkley: So this is your monthly tax payment – has to be done in cash. And this is, you’re really having to take a backpack or a duffle bag down to Salem to make your payment.
Tyson Haworth: Yes, well, we don’t have to pay it in cash, we’d really like to pay it with a check but due to challenges with banking we haven’t been able to pay it with a check consistently.
Rep. Blumenauer: Hopelessly inefficient. I mean, just think about what would happen to all the businesses in the community if they were forced into this. And of course, there’s a double inequity because you’re paying unfair taxes. Marijuana industries are not able to deduct all their legitimate business expenses for tax purposes. My goal in Congress is for you to be able to pay fair taxes with a check.
Sen. Merkley: So here we are, we have a pile of cash here in the car. How much cash are we traveling with?
Tyson Haworth: Between our two locations we have close to $70,000 in cash.
Sen. Merkley: And so, this is crazy. This is from an ancient era where we’re taking cash down to Salem because you’re legally not allowed to use our banking system.
Tyson Haworth: Yeah, it’s really unfortunate that members in the cannabis business community can’t access banking like every other business. We can’t get credit card processing at our retail spots. When we do open a bank account – typically we’re shut down within a month or two once they find out that we sell cannabis for a living.
Sen. Merkley: Tyson – how’d your family get involved in the cannabis industry?
Tyson Haworth: After working in the organic produce business for many years, my wife had a couple of back surgeries and with the second back surgery she decided she didn’t want to go the prescription painkiller route of opiates and all the dangerous side effects that are associated. Instead, we sought out the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.
Sen. Merkley: So do you have customers come in the door to buy cannabis, who pull out their credit card all ready to buy it, and you say no, sorry, everything has to be on cash basis?
Tyson Haworth: Yes, on a daily basis, we have customers that come in with wanting to use credit card services and we’re unable to provide those.
Sen. Merkley: So isn’t this pure cash economy an invitation to theft? Do you worry about getting robbed? I mean, here you’re traveling down the road with an enormous pile of money in a backpack.
Tyson Haworth: Yeah, it’s one of the few things that keeps me up at night. I lose sleep over how we’re going to protect our employees and really everyone in the cannabis business community that is strapped with the burden of paying all their bills in cash.
Sen. Merkley: Well here we are, arriving at the department of revenue bringing down your cash to make your payment. And one of the things you talked about was the enormous inconvenience, but the cost also to the industry. The cost for the retailers, and certainly the cost for the state to handle all of this cash. So this is why I’m absolutely dedicated to changing the federal law so that Oregon and other states won’t have to go through this, retailers won’t have to go through it, the Department of Revenue won’t go through it.