By Oliver Lazenby
After weeks of searching for a new bank, Rawganique, the Blaine-based hemp and natural fiber clothing company, will be able to keep its bank account after all, CEO Qeanu Wallner said this week.
In early October, Umpqua Bank wrote Rawganique that its account would be closed because it operates an “excluded line of business.” The news sent Wallner searching for a new account, as he continued pressing Umpqua Bank to keep his account. The bank reversed its decision on October 27, and will continue working with Rawganique.
Rawganique designs and sells hemp products such as clothing, hempseed oil, hempseed butter, hemp protein powder and rope. Hemp, a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant, is grown specifically for industrial uses. While it’s considered a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substance Act, the act excludes the “mature stalks of the plant” and products made from those stalks. Growing hemp is federally illegal without a research license.
Language on Rawganique’s website raised a flag in Umpqua Bank’s annual review, bank spokesperson Eve Callahan said. Rawganique’s website stated that the company grows, weaves, knits and sews its products.
“Their website said very clearly at the time that they were growing their hemp. Since we are federally insured, we are not able to bank with companies that are in the business of selling or growing marijuana or cannabis,” Callahan said.
Rawganique’s hemp is grown by contractors who are mostly in Europe, Wallner said. To prove that, Umpqua Bank required that he hand over two years of tax returns and the company’s articles of incorporation, filled out due diligence paperwork and wrote a statement saying none of the company’s owners have a stake in the hemp growing and production companies that it works with.
“They have come back and presented us with additional documentation and we’re confident that they are not growing their own hemp,” Callahan said.
Umpqua’s decision is the end of a scramble for Wallner. After being told his account would be closed, he spent hours speaking with other banks and filling out paperwork, he said.
“They really imposed a lot of hardship on us, and cost,” he said.
To process payments and pay employees, Rawganique opened an account with Washington Federal. After being told he could continue to bank with Umpqua, Wallner didn’t know which bank he would work with. An October 31 letter from Washington Federal made that decision easier: “We regret to inform you that we will close the above referenced account on November 15, 2017,” the letter stated.
The letter did not explain the bank’s decision.
Wallner spoke about the issue on Rawganique’s Facebook to raise awareness. Other companies that sell hemp clothing have reportedly had banking troubles before, and Rawganique has had issues finding insurance, Wallner said.
“We want to set this right for all the other small businesses that have been discriminated against,” he said. “We want to help others. If it was just about us, we could have focused all our energy on finding a new bank and done nothing else about it.”
Rawganique moved its headquarters to 270 C Street in Blaine from Point Roberts in August.