Alaska marijuana businesses will finally have a financial institution. Credit Union 1 has announced a pilot program that will provide checking and savings account services to those operating in the industry. Until now, Alaska marijuana businesses had to operate in all-cash – including payment of taxes and other bills.
Even marijuana cultivators in Alaska have had to operate in cash, Anchorage Daily News noted. The state Department of Revenue reports that 77% of marijuana taxes are paid in cash. The credit union is taking a risk by providing services to the marijuana industry.
James Wileman of Credit Union 1 said, “The lack of financial services, complete lack, has created a cash crisis and a safety issue in our community. We seek to solve this by providing the financial services to the (marijuana-related businesses).”
Erika McConnell of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office said, “Lack of access to banking services has been an obstacle for many licensees, some of whom have even had their personal accounts closed at various banks.”
Kelly Mazzei of the Alaska Department of Revenue said, “This staggering volume has placed a steady burden on the state to handle and count the cash, over $1.5 million per month right now.”
Wileman said, regarding the risk its taking, that, “But it’s something we feel we can do reasonably well.”
The pilot program is working with just a few marijuana businesses. This will help assess the extra burden for the credit union and determine how it will move forward. It hopes to expand to the entire Alaska marijuana industry in the future.