States have legalized the sale of marijuana, but so far banks and credit unions have been reluctant to handle that industry’s profits. Well it turns out that at least one bank in Southern Nevada is already talking with clients and potential customers who are hoping to get into the dispensary or cultivation business in Clark County.
John Sullivan, president and CEO of First Security Bank of Nevada, told KNPR in an interview Friday that he approached his board of directors with the idea of banking medical marijuana businesses a couple of months ago. He said they’ve looked at the federal guidelines and banking regulations and felt that banking the marijuana industry was a safe and valuable new line of business for the community bank.
“Our willingness to work with the applicants who intend to get into the marijuana-related businesses arises from our attitude that we should serve all of the customers in our market,” Sullivan said.
In February, the Obama administration issued guidelines intended to give banks confidence that they will not be punished if they provided legitimate marijuana businesses in states where it’s legal, even though it remains illegal under federal law. The guidance requires banks to vigorously monitor their marijuana-industry customers.
The policy issued by the Treasury Department and Justice Department in separate advisories, doesn’t grant immunity from prosecution or civil penalties to banks that serve legal marijuana businesses. But it directs prosecutors and regulators to give priority to cases only where financial institutions have failed to adhere to the guidance. Sullivan said these “marijuana businesses will be operated pursuant to state law, county requirement and city requirements.”
First Security Bank of Nevada posted earnings of $1 million last year, compared with $420,000 in 2012.