Washington and Colorado Governors Pressure Feds to Allow Banks to Take Pot Money
Gov. Jay Inslee and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have sent a letter to various federal banking regulators urging they formally approve banks to take money from pot store operators, growers and processors. The letter went out late last week.
While President Obama said in February that the federal government should "not go after" such business people in states where pot is legal, there's nothing in writing. The Director of Washington State's Financial Institutions, Scott Jarvis, said last week:
"Something in writing...would be very useful..", in referring to the federal banking regulators. Without formal, written proof, virtually all the banks and credit unions are holding off, except for one.
Numerica Credit Union announced earlier this month they will allow marijuana growers and processors to open accounts to handle the money they receive from the state for preparing the drug for sale. BUT that does not, according to the Spokesman Review newspaper, include owners-operators of the state licensed pot stores.
The President and CEO of Numerica, a Spokane-based credit union that has expanded to the Tri-Cities in the last few years, issued a statement May 7th on the Northwest Credit Union Association website saying that "opening accounts for marijuana businesses is in the best interests of our members and their communities."
Carla Altepeter is approaching the matter from a very business oriented angle:
"Numerica is neither an advocate nor an opponent of marijuana legalization, we're simply a financial institution that is serving an important need in our community."
However, numerous other banks and credit unions in the Mid-Columbia are approaching marijuana money of any kind like it's Kryptonite. Newstalk 870 has learned these institutions are VERY wary of running afoul of ANY federal drug law that could result in them being prosecuted, because the drug is still illegal at the federal level.
Sources have told Newstalk 870 that financial institutions, especially banks, could be prosecuted, lose their charter, and destroy decades - if not generations - of serving the public and running a successful banking business. Technically, they would be treated the same way as those who launder or process drug money on the "black market" - criminals.
It appears until the federal government formally and officially issues, in writing, assurances that banks and credit unions won't be prosecuted for taking pot money, it's not going to happen. Many banking officials say they won't accept it until the Federal law about pot being illegal is changed! And with the licenses being issued for the state stores starting July 1st, something better happen soon. Otherwise, pot store owners will be forced, as Gov. Inslee hinted, to drag their money around town in a suitcase.
Just another unconsidered consequence of pot legalization.