Spin Control

Spokane pot businesses could bank on credit union

OLYMPIA -- Numerica Credit Union is the first financial institution in the state willing to accept clients whose business is recreational marijuana, the Washington Liquor Control Board was told Wednesday.

But only for Spokane area businesses, Becky Smith, the board's marijuana licensing manager, said: “They want to keep it local.”

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. . . That could give Spokane marijuana growers, processors and retailers a leg up on other licensed pot businesses around the state. Most haven’t been able to find a bank or credit union that will accept their business, and some have been dropped when bank officials find out what it entails.

Although recreational use of marijuana is legal for adults in Washington, and the state is issuing licenses for businesses to meet that demand, the drug remains illegal under federal law.  Federal banking regulations place restrictions on banks accepting money from drug proceeds.

Without bank accounts, marijuana businesses face the prospect of dealing exclusively in cash for purchases, payroll and sales. They won’t be able to accept credit or debit cards for transactions or make direct deposits for taxes. Law enforcement officials warn of increased danger for robberies with large amounts of cash being kept at the businesses.

Numerica officials did not return requests for comment. Earlier this year the credit union’s general counsel said it was forming procedures for opening accounts for marijuana businesses.

Smith said the six of the 25 licenses the agency has issued for marijuana growers or processors are inside Spokane County, the most of any county in the state at this point. Retail businesses that have been selected through a lottery for the limited number of stores allowed in each county and major city will be notified this week. 




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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