Can The OregonSaves Program Help Cannabis Employees Save For Retirement

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The cannabis industry already has plenty of concerns: the lack of access to banking, the bottomless suck-hole of profit for dispensaries that is Section 280E, and the way the adult beverage industry seems to be regulated and taxed differently from the adult botanical industry.

But new concerns always emerge, and Oregon’s cannabis industry job holders should get hip to all the latest financial discriminations. Here’s one that sounds boring AF, but is actually important: Roth IRA. Hey! Stop rolling your eyes. This is some “How to Adult” uncut wisdom about to drop on your stoned gourd.

Americans don’t save enough for retirement. Even if you predict we’re all going to die in a nuclear exchange with Canada and retirement savings aren’t a concern, they should be. If we don’t go radioactive, you’ll probably want some money once you stop working.

Enter OregonSaves, a first-of-its-kind program in the United States that was initiated to help employees whose companies don’t offer a retirement plan. OregonSaves helps Oregon workers set up a Roth IRA, make contributions through their workplace, and take the IRA with them when they change employers. OregonSaves’ goal is to signup one million eligible employees in Oregon, including up to 400,000 “1099” employees, which are quite prevalent in the cannabis industry. The program has a mandate to roll out fully and make itself available to the one million potential enrollees within three years.

Yesterday, Megan Marchetti of the Oregon’s Finest chain of dispensaries was informed that her employees were not eligible to participate because of “the business she was in.” You know, the cannabis one, with all the pot weed? Marchetti posted to social media how this was discrimination (it is), and urged people to “inundate” Joel Metlen, the operations director of Oregon Savings Network and outreach manager for OregonSaves, with calls and emails.

First, do not do that. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with Metlen, five minutes after I emailed him and identified myself from Cannabuzz. He’s on paternity leave. Let the man be, because it’s not his fault—they know it’s jacked up, and a solution is in the works. It is an interesting example of canna bias in the financial industry outside of simply banking matters.

Metlen explained to me that OregonSaves is a public/private partnership, and even though Oregon is the “public” part of that equation, the private part is composed of a wide number and type of financial entities, since it’s investment related. These entities are regulated by the feds, so this becomes an extension of the existing banking issues—any money earned from cannabis cannot be deposited or transferred into the bank.

(FUN CANNABIS FACTS! Cannabis industry businesses must pay taxes to the state. They can’t have bank accounts, because banks won’t accept deposits of money that was made in the cannabis industry. So growers, dispensary owners, processors, and others pay their taxes in cash in person, often in small bags of it, because the taxes aren’t cheap. The state accepts the cash, issues a receipt, and promptly deposits that same cash into the banks that wouldn’t accept it directly from the taxpayer, because it’s bad, filthy money. That’s where we are.)

Metlen explained that they want to offer this program to the cannabis industry, and that starts by working with the OLCC, which he said is not automatically identifying cannabis businesses to the program so they could be informed with an email or mailing regarding their eligibility. They are also working with the financial entities to find a way to make this available to everyone.

Metlen urged those employed in the cannabis industry to sign up for the OregonSaves program, so that when they do find a solution, they can email out the invite to the industry. Even if you’re not working in cannabis, it could be worth checking out. I know most of you are young and going to live forever, but it’s not the worst idea to maybe plan for the platinum years ahead.

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