Missoula Credit Unions Help Marijuana Businesses Bank Safely

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KGVO News spoke to Cary Hegreberg on Monday about how the federal government is banning local banks from servicing new and existing recreational and medicinal marijuana stores, due to the fact that marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug.

However, these companies can do business without having to travel out of state to deposit their money, and that now includes some Missoula-area credit unions.

On Tuesday, KGVO News spoke with Jack Lawson, president and CEO of Clearwater Credit Union in Missoula.

Lawson said credit unions and some banks are able to serve businesses that sell legal recreational and medicinal marijuana.

“Banks and credit unions face very serious and significant compliance hurdles and burdens when servicing adult medical or recreational cannabis businesses,” Lawson said. “But there are a small handful of financial institutions, both banks and credit unions across the country, that have actually figured out how to prudently serve licensed and compliant cannabis businesses.”

Without going into specifics, Lawson explained how Clearwater Credit Union is able to serve these new businesses in a limited way.

“What we have done through investments in compliance through a considerable amount of board education and transparent work with our regulators to develop a program whereby we can actually meet the deposit and transaction needs of cannabis-related businesses in the state of Montana,” he said. “We have a program in place where we’ve been opening accounts for probably almost two years now and have a tremendous volume of business in that area However, we do not provide loan or credit services.

Lawson said his company has gone the extra mile to help cannabis-related businesses in a safe and secure manner.

“We have worked to develop a program that allows us to build capacity, stay compliant with our regulators and serve businesses,” he said. “We are not here to conquer the whole market or generate a huge profit. We want to make sure that we get the job done and that cannabis businesses that offer to operate in a compliant manner and are licensed have a place to park their money and are not asked to hide the fact that they are of this type of business, so there is no need to carry cash across state lines or carry large bags of cash around town. None of these things are in the interest of the community.

Lawson said Clearwater’s new cannabis customers are grateful to have a safe and secure financial home.

“I think the companies that do business with us actually feel a sense of relief that they can operate honestly and transparently,” he said. “However, I will also say that it is not an easy task for them either. The compliance requirements, the due diligence, the reporting, the fee structure that we ask of them is also a heavyweight for them. But the companies that do business with us take on that burden because they know it’s the right way to do business.

According to Gallup polls, more than 60% of Americans support legalizing marijuana, up 20% from just 10 years ago. Montanans voted overwhelmingly in 2020 to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana.

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