By: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by the Florida Bar in Health Law and Shelby Root
Marijuana businesses are flourishing in the four states that it is legal, including D.C., but are still finding it difficult to operate without access to a traditional banking system. In Denver, Colorado, that may all change if the credit union can get approval from the Federal Reserve. The Fourth Corner Credit Union was created to serve the marijuana industry, by creating a bank focused on offering a solution to the massive cash flow that these businesses bring to Colorado. The credit union was granted a charter on November 19, 2014, by Colorado’s banking regulators. However, it is still waiting for a master account number from the Federal Reserve to gain access to the country’s electronic banking system. Until it is granted that, Fourth Corner will remain empty with a “Coming Soon” banner above the front door.
The Fourth Corner Credit Union’s Business Model.
The Fourth Corner Credit Union will accept cash deposits and allow customers to make electronic transfers for payroll and rent, and to purchase supplies. To comply with state and federal rules, Fourth Corner will largely limit its operations to Colorado. Transactions will be approved by bankers who are keeping a close eye on where the money is transferring to ensure it is going towards the business and not redirected to cartels or gangs.
Any business or person with an interest in the marijuana industry will be eligible to join Fourth Corner, which organizers say will look like any other credit union.
The Difficulty in Running a Business without a Traditional Banking System.
The marijuana industry is popular in the states it is legal. Colorado has nearly 800 recreational marijuana shops, which brought in $38 million during February 2015. Without the use of a banking system businesses are unable to take credit cards, debit cards and checks. Thus, dealing in cash is the only way to operate the business. Handling enormous amounts of cash is not a small task, it is time-consuming, dangerous and costly. The owners are left to store cash in safes, tote in bags or boxes to the tax office and utility company, hand out in bundles on payday, and move it by armored vehicles and armed guards.
A Potential Reason for the Delay.
There is not a case of a state accredited financial institution being denied a master account. Usually, approval will come within weeks, but it has been nearly seven months and still no answer. Mark Mason, an attorney advising the credit unions’s founders, has a suggestion for a reason why the Federal Reserve may be wary of granting the account number. He believes that this will “legitimize the marijuana industry to the extent it’s never been.”
Blog Editor’s Comments:
One of the biggest legal problems that exist in states that have legalized marijuana is how to handle the money that is generated. Without access to federally regulated banks (which won’t touch such proceeds), it is difficult to pay taxes, purchase supplies, pay employees or run the business. This is a step in the right direction to remedy this problem.
What are your thoughts on a credit union focused on the marijuana industry? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.
Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Medical Marijuana Concerns.
The Health Law Firm attorneys can assist health care providers and facilities, such as doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies, wanting to participate in the medical marijuana industry. We can properly draft and complete the applications for registration, permitting and/or licensing, while complying with Florida law. We can also represent doctors, pharmacies and pharmacists facing proceedings brought by state regulators or agencies.
To contact the Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
Hughes, Trevor. “Colorado OKs Marijuana Credit Union.” USA Today. (December 8, 2014). From:
Fox31 Denver. “Pot Problem: Banks Still Don’t Want This Cash.” (April 14, 2015). From:
Richtel, Matt. “The First Bank of Bud Marijuana Industry in Colorado, Eager for Its Own Bank, Waits on the Fed.” The New York Times. (February 5, 2015). From:
About the Authors: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620. Shelby Root is a summer associate at The Health Law Firm. She is a student at Barry University College of Law in Orlando.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
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