The world’s first banking institution established to serve legal marijuana businesses could be open in Colorado by January 1the Denver Post reports.

The Fourth Corner Credit Union received an unconditional charter from the Colorado Division of Financial Services on Wednesday. The Fourth Corner still requires insurance via the National Credit Union Administration, and will also need a master account from the Federal Reserve System. Nonetheless, organizers report that the institution is almost ready for business.

Waiting on insurance from the NCUA could take up to two years, and being approved for insurance is by no means a guarantee (marijuana is still an illegal and controlled substance at the federal level). However, “A Colorado law of 1981 allows a credit union to open its doors while an application for share-deposit insurance is pending,” explained Mark Mason, one of the credit union’s organizers. “Now, the NCUA can come and look to see how it is functioning, and determine if they will issue the insurance,” Mason said.

Mason believes that federal regulators will approve the credit union’s business plan, which focuses on safety and exercising solid business practices. “The cornerstone is the compliance department, with a world-renowned anti-money-laundering expert and former regulators helping to write the first manual of its kind in how to handle marijuana money,” Mason said. “That was critical.”

Establishing reliable banking services is an important step in regulating and further legitimizing the industry. “In every other way, the industry has been a normal business, operating in every other way businesses do, but primarily in cash,” said Chris Nevitt, Denver City Councilman and one of nine founding board members for Fourth Corner. “The one missing piece in making it completely normal was banking, the one thing that wasn’t there. Now it will be.”

A statement from Gov. John Hickenlooper’s director of marijuana coordination read, “This is the end of the line from the state’s side. We’ve done all we can do.”

The Fourth Corner Credit Union will serve legal marijuana businesses in Colorado, as well as members of nonprofits that support legalized marijuana.

Sources:

http://www.denverpost.com/business/ci_26980328/colorado-pot-credit-union-could-be-open-by

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012

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