Colorado Banks Get Paranoid About Marijuana Dispensary Accounts


Graphic: Reality Catcher
If you’re a marijuana dispensary operator, Wells Fargo now says your money’s not green enough. Or maybe too green. Anyway, they don’t want your business.

​Wells Fargo — which, according to medical marijuana dispensary owners, was the only bank in Colorado which wanted their business — has stopped opening new accounts for dispensaries.

Cristie Drumm, spokeswoman for Wells Fargo, said the bank is looking at state and federal laws to determine what risk the bank runs in working with dispensaries, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.
“We’re not actively opening accounts with these businesses at this time,” Drumm said.
The bank hasn’t said if it would close its existing dispensary accounts, but the news has many dispensary owners wondering if they might lose a key part of their business plans.
“We wouldn’t have a bank to put our money in,” said Ryan Vincent of The Health Center in Denver. “I don’t know what we would do. We’d probably have to start rallying to put together a credit union.”

Graphic: The Health Center

​According to Vincent, “every dispensary” he knows of uses Wells Fargo as its bank, mostly because the marijuana industry hasn’t been welcome in other financial institutions.
Vincent said shutting out dispensaries would deprive the bank of needed customers and deprive dispensaries of needed stability, possibly forcing them to operate in more shadowy, cash-oriented ways.
“It’s interesting to see that there’s money and no one wants to hold onto it,” Vincent said. “We’re trying to be a legitimate, above-board industry in Colorado.”
While it’s unusual for banks for turn away potential customers, legal considerations have made many banks uncomfortable working with dispensaries, according to Tim Powers, spokesman for the Colorado Bankers Association.
Federal law forbids banks from doing business with companies operating illegally, and marijuana distribution, whether or not for medical purposes, is still against federal law.
“Regulators are basically saying, ‘Approach this with caution. There could be problems,’ ” Powers said.
“Because of that, a lot of banks are taking the ultra-conservative approach.”