WASHINGTON: Community banks and credit unions are ready and willing to provide financial services to entrepreneurs in the state’s new legal pot industry.
But they aren’t able to, at least not yet.
Marijuana businesses, even ones that will soon be legally licensed in this state, are considered criminal enterprises under federal law, which makes handling their money a crime in the eyes of the Department of Justice.
Until the agency changes its outlook or Congress changes the law — and efforts are under way to do both — those getting into the pot business can’t open a bank account, secure a line of credit or obtain a loan from a federally insured financial institution in their neighborhood.
For those who make a living doing those things, it’s frustrating.
“We survive in our community and we prosper in our community by providing banking services,” said Denny Eliason, lobbyist for the Washington Bankers Association, which represents nearly all of the state’s 93 banks. “It is not a matter of do we want to offer these services. We’re eager to but we’re not willing because there is too much at stake.”
The landscape is the same for credit unions.
“Our hands are tied,” said David Curtis, director of compliance services for the Northwest Credit Union Association, which has 104 members in Washington. “Until we can get some official guidance, everybody is in a holding pattern.”