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Solving Marijuana's Banking Problem

Medical marijuana is already legal in Nevada, but in November voters will decide whether to legalize recreational pot as well.

With about three dispensaries statewide, Nevada’s medical marijuana industry has barely gotten off the ground.

Now, voters in November will decide if Nevada becomes the fifth state with legalized recreational marijuana.

If medical and recreational pot ever become big business here, owners will need a place to deposit their money.

Most banks and credit unions won’t do business with pot dispensaries or growers. The reason – marijuana is still illegal under federal law.

Randi Thompson is working with other investors to change that. She’s hoping to win approval for Battle Born Credit Union.

"There are situations in 23 states where people are lying to their banker," she said, "They are opening accounts, making deposits, making them randomly, having staff make them."

According to Thompsen, her team of experts from banking, cyber security and financial services decided that the best way to go was a credit union that is privately insured.

"The challenge is mostly in all of this is the insurance part," she explained, "You're not going to find the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which is the bank side, or NCUA, the National Credit Union Association, neither of them will insure a bank if it's taking money from marijuana."

Like all credit unions, this one would include a field of membership, Thompsen said, but it would be kept to only those in the medical marijuana industry, including patients, growers, doctors, and dispensaries.

She said the Federal Reserve bank in San Francisco is open it looking at the application to establish the credit union. The biggest hangup so far as been a lack of customers.  

Thompson said that so far the demand in Nevada for a bank or credit union that will take medical marijuana money has not reached a critical level because the industry is still too small.

"I've been told by numerous medical marijuana dispensary owners: 'Yes, this is important," but not yet," she said, "They're more worried about getting cash in, not to do with their cash."

Randi Thompson, owner, Randi Thompson Consulting

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