Alaska Credit Union First to Offer Banking for Cannabis Businesses

Anyone who has ever been to a legal dispensary expects to see at least two things: a wide variety of cannabis products and a noticeable security presence. There are many reasons these cannabis businesses have security but chief amongst them is the massive amounts of cash these businesses have on them at any one time. In Alaska, medicinal cannabis has been legal since 1998 and recreational cannabis has been legal since November of 2014. Yet still, cannabis businesses have been forced to complete all financial transactions, including paying taxes, with cash. However, last week, Credit Union 1, a $1 billion asset-institution headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska announced that they will begin a pilot program to legally provide financial services to cannabis-related businesses.

Why Banking for Cannabis Businesses is So Important

Although many states have legalized the sales and use of both recreational and medicinal cannabis, it is still considered a “Schedule 1” drug by the federal government. The current classification of cannabis allows the federal government to go after any banks who deal with cannabis businesses for money laundering. The possibility of legal action by the federal government makes banks fearful of dealing with cannabis businesses even if the state where they are operating says cannabis is legal. Though Credit Union 1 is taking an important step within the cannabis industry, their CEO James Wileman made clear that, “Credit Union 1 does not take a political or moral position on the legalization of marijuana by providing services to these businesses.” He elaborated that, “When it comes to our members, we always seek to meet the financial needs of those we serve without judgment or prejudice.”

Cary Carrigan, Executive Director of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association believes that Credit Union 1 is making an important leap for all businesses in the cannabis industry. He believes that giving cannabis-related businesses a way to bank “Provides a legal, structured, non-cash financial option that no longer makes marijuana businesses a target for theft.” Carrigan calls banking for cannabis businesses an “essential component to maintaining progress.”

Is Alaska the Tip of The Iceberg?

The Credit Union 1 pilot program is only expected to cater to a few businesses at its outset though it is expected that the program will expand should it see initial success. When asked whether he believes that more financial institutions will follow Credit Union 1’s lead, Carrigan says it is likely that “banks and unions will only sit by long enough to see the federal reaction is.”

While the cannabis industry and the laws regulating it in Alaska faces uncertainty as Conservative Republican Governor-elect Mike Dunleavy is set to take office early 2019, the progress being made by forward thinking entities like Credit Union 1 provides hope.

Medical Marijuana 411 is also dedicated to forwarding progress within the Alaska cannabis industry. In fact, we were recently approved by the state of Alaska to provide our state of the art online Alaska Marijuana Handler Permit Certification to cannabis business professionals. This program includes all the instruction required by the state of Alaska and provides several additional modules about the science of marijuana. All research is cited and is available within the coursework via clickable, endnote citations. Check out the course through the following link: 

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