Marijuana plants being grown under blacklights to boost their potency. Massachusetts banks and credit unions continue to stand up services catering to the cannabis industry despite signs demand for recreational marijuana may be starting to slow. iStock photo

Berkshire Bank is launching a cannabis banking unit that provides tailored banking solutions for what it called an “underserved” industry.

Massachusetts banks have been moving towards catering to the needs of the cannabis industry for “safe, affordable, and accessible” banking, amid challenges that the industry is still facing.

In a partnership with Green Check Verified, a cannabis compliance software company, Berkshire is promising clients a seamless integrated platform that includes an application process, transaction monitoring, compliance and funds movement.

“We recognize many banks do not serve the needs of businesses that sell cannabis-related products and services. These businesses have been underserved and we believe, as an industry, we must do better to promote economic equity and ensure access to safe banking services. Berkshire is pleased to step into this space to empower cannabis businesses with the right financial solutions,” Berkshire Senior Executive Vice President and Head of Retail Banking Lucy Bellomia said in a statement.

The cannabis banking program include a long list of business banking services: ACH and wire services, armored cash pick-up, employee banking, debit cards, checks, financial education, mobile and online banking, mobile deposit, relationship banking, deposit account control agreements, high-yield savings and money market accounts and wealth management.

Berkshire also appointed Ryan Handelman to lead the unit and business development as a first vice president and director of specialty banking. Before Berkshire, Handelman led the cannabis business banking team at Woburn’s Northern Bank and held roles with Green Check Verified.

Handelman is joined by a cannabis banking program team comprising vice president and specialty banking relationship manager Victor Onorato, as well as five bankers handling five geographic focus areas: New York; the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts and the Hartford, Connecticut area; Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island; the Berkshires and Vermont; and Central and Eastern Massachusetts.

“At Berkshire Bank, we look forward to providing a comprehensive solution to the banking challenges faced by cannabis businesses and their employees. The ability to provide a full suite of products and services at an affordable price is essential to the growth of this developing industry,” Handelman said in a statement.

Berkshire joins an increasingly busy cannabis banking sector. About a dozen banks and credit unions now provide cannabis banking services in Massachusetts, including Needham Bank, which acquired Century Bank’s long-time cannabis business from Eastern Bank last year, Dedham Savings Bank, Springfield-based Freedom Credit Union, Swansea-based BayCoast Bank, Fall River-based BankFive, Hudson’s Avidia Bank, Marlborough’s Main Street Bank and Northern Bank.

But state data suggests the heady growth of the recreational marijuana sector is tapering off, and some consolidation among retailers and producers could be in the offing.

Berkshire Jumps into Cannabis Banking

by Nika Cataldo time to read: 2 min