Cashing In

How Numerica is dealing with pot businesses

Since Initiative 502 passed, officials and cannabis industry leaders have been concerned about the banking service restrictions (federal financial regulations forced the industry to be cash-only.) In February the departments of Justice and Treasury issued joint memos granting financial institutions a tacit go-ahead to offer banking services to legal marijuana businesses, indicating that those accounts would be a low priority for the feds. Numerica Credit Union was the first financial institution in Washington to publicly offer accounts to marijuana-related businesses. Some consider the move risky, but Numerica could become a trailblazer. The bank’s executive vice president and general counsel Lynn Ciani spoke with the Inlander as the first recreational marijuana shops opened this week.

INLANDER: What factors did Numerica consider when deciding to host accounts for marijuana growers and processors, but not retailers?

CIANI: It is in the best interest of our members and our communities that I-502 businesses are able to safely manage their finances through a financial institution, rather than operate as a cash-only business. The possible crime associated with cash-only business is very concerning.

We also know that there are issues and risks associated with accepting I-502 deposits, and realized that we don’t know how to ensure that retail businesses are not selling to minors, or to someone from another state who may take the product across borders illegally.

Have you had any backlash from your customers?

We have had only a few members voice their concerns, because they have very strong opinions about the legalization of marijuana. At the same time, we have also received comments from members who recognize the need.

Numerica has specific rules for marijuana-related accounts, including a $5 million limit, in-person-only deposits and that no debit or credit cards will be issued. Why is that?

We wanted to mitigate the risks associated with accepting deposits from I-502 businesses while still providing the best service we can to those members. We took considerable time evaluating the risks associated with accepting these deposits, and in order to manage our risk and meet the requirements imposed by third-party vendors, we are unable to offer I-502 businesses all of the checking account services provided to non-I-502 businesses.

Are you worried that Numerica is becoming the “marijuana bank?”

Of course that is a concern, but our I-502 accounts are a very small part of all that we do, and we continue to offer the entire community quality products and services.♦

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