When Melissa Johnson needed a new car last summer, she bought a used Kia Soul from the dealership in Bend.
She drove away with an affordable payment and relatively low interest rate on an auto loan. But a week later, she said, she received a call: “You need to come into the dealership.”
Turns out, Johnson said in March, financing was denied because her income comes from her job in customer service at Bloom Well, a retail marijuana shop on Division Street in Bend.
The sales staff at the dealership, which declined to comment for this story, tried to find a solution for Johnson.
“They assured me that they’d work with me to keep me in the car,” she said. “The head guy kept on it until they found someone who’d work with me, but at a higher interest rate and a higher payment.”
Marijuana may be legal in Oregon, but it’s still criminalized under federal law. That means most banks, which are federally regulated, shun marijuana businesses as too risky.
But even the employees of marijuana growers, processors, wholesalers and retailers face obstacles when they apply for car loans, home mortgages and other consumer financing.
Credit unions, including Selco Community Credit Union and locally based Mid Oregon Credit Union, have no problem lending to workers with paychecks from marijuana businesses, but many large banks, including Bank of America and Wells Fargo, will not.
“It is currently Wells Fargo’s policy not to provide auto loans or mortgage loans to employees of marijuana businesses,” Tom Unger, a bank spokesman in Portland, wrote in an email. “We are a federally charted bank and based on federal laws, the sale and use of marijuana is still illegal.”
Likewise, Kris Yamamoto, a spokesman for Bank of America, wrote in an email that any income