America's rapidly-expanding marijuana industry faces a major quandary: large, national banks are afraid to do business with cannabis businesses for fear of running afoul of strict federal regulations.
That could change with the creation of the first financial institution dedicated solely to serving the cannabis industry. This week, the Colorado Division of Financial Services issued a charter to The Fourth Corner Credit Union, which could being doing business and serving the local cannabis community as soon as January, a spokeswoman for the state's regulatory agencies confirmed.
The dearth of reliable banking opportunities has turned the marijuana "green rush" into a mostly all-cash affair as business owners are unable to store their pot proceeds in a checking account. Fortune wrote about how banking restrictions have helped give rise to a number of ancillary businesses serving the cannabis industry by offering cash management and security services.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called the charter issued to Fourth Corner, the first credit-union charter granted by the state in almost a decade, "the end of the line" for the industry's banking problem, The Denver Post reported.
Of course, Fourth Corner still must seek insurance from federal regulators at the National Credit Union Administration while the U.S. Federal Reserve will also have to offer its blessing. The credit union plans to serve any legal marijuana businesses in Colorado, as well as any members of non-profits that support legalized marijuana.