ANAHEIM, Calif.—Despite a shaky start to 2018 – including Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ move to rescind Obama-era protections for state-level cannabis – several experts in marijuana banking insist that there are opportunities available for credit unions that want to get involved in a potentially lucrative market.
That was the message from a panel discussion during a breakout session at the National Association of Credit Union Supervisors’ annual NACUSO Network Conference Monday.
The National Association of Credit Union Service Organization’s 2018 annual conference featured a panel on pot banking opportunities for credit unions. The panel included, from left, Deirdra O’Gorman, CEO of Denver-based Fourth Corner CU; Rachel Pross, chief risk officer for Maps CU, Salem, Ore.; and John Vardaman, executive vice president and general counsel for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based payments firm Hypur, which has served the cannabis industry since 2014.
Maps Credit Union, a $690 million institution based in Salem, Ore., has served cannabis industry since 2014, shortly after the Beaver State legalized adult recreational use of marijuana. Rachel Pross, the CU’s chief risk officer, came on board in 2016.
“The board made decision to promote community safety first, and second to serve the underserved,” she said. “I can’t think of a better definition of ‘underserved’ than the legal cannabis industry.”
Pross said if other CUs wish to get into cannabis, the first commitment they need to make is to robust compliance – as she said Maps did.
“Have a limit on the number of accounts you take on and have a written exit strategy,” she advised.
When the Cole Memo was rescinded in January, Maps CU had $30 million in cannabis money on deposit. Management had to order $30 million in cash and be ready to drop it within 24 hours, Pross recalled.
“Not everyone is going to be super