Akeem Gardner is a licensed hemp farmer near Orangeville, Ontario. Gardner said that his account at the TD Bank was frozen after the bank accused him of illegal activities based on his outward appearance and other false accusations.
He further said that when he was dressed in business attire, the bank never flagged him, but all this changed when he tried to transfer money to a merchant three weeks ago. In an interview with BBC, Gardener, who is a 6’4 black man, was dressed in a hoodie and a toque. He adds that people from minority groups come across these assumptions all the time.
Gardner said that he had used the account to send and receive money on numerous occasions, but on this particular day, he was transferring $35,000, which was by far the highest amount he has ever transacted.
“We are still investigating the situation,” said TD Bank. The bank’s spokesperson agreed that the bank misunderstood Gardner’s nature of business, but when he was asked about the alleged discrimination, he did not comment.
Gardner owns a company by the name Atlas 365, and it is licensed to cultivate industrial hemp by Health Canada.
Hemp is non-psychoactive, and it is used to make natural medicine, food, plant-based textiles, and carbon-neutral building materials.
In November 2018, Gardner opened his business account in TD Bank. He used the account to pay for the materials and supplies needed on his farm, and he has never encountered any problem before. However, earlier this month, when he wanted to transfer $35,000 to pay for an industrial hemp dryer for his branch in Brampton, he was told that because of the amount involved, the transaction must be approved by the bank manager.
The bank then froze his business account and credit card, claiming that he was involved in an illegal business that is not supported by the bank. Unlike other times, that day he was dressed in casual attire because he had spent the day toiling in the hemp field.
One of the bank employees checked his company’s website, and assumed that Gardner was breaking the law, the bank said to Gardner.
Gardner said that the bank thought that the company was operating a dispensary when, in reality, they run a farm. The bank should have inquired about the nature of his business or his license instead of jumping to conclusions and freezing his accounts, Gardner added.
When opening his business account, he provided the bank with his production license issued by Health Canada and Ontario Business license. Why then open an account for a business they do not support, wondered Gardner.
The reason why Gardner was banking with TD Banks is its “Ready Commitment” initiative, which was a program meant to promote inclusivity and sustainability.
The bank’s spokesperson, Paolo Pasquini, said that the bank is working to resolve the matter and regrets the inconvenience. When he changed banks, his funds took several days before they were transferred.
Analysts feel that cases like these are very disappointing to legitimate cannabis businesses like Dama Financial and SinglePoint Inc. (OTCQB: SING) that put in an honest day’s work to contribute to society.
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