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Alaska's Credit Union 1 to serve legal marijuana businesses

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Credit Union 1, a $1 billion-asset institution based in Anchorage, Alaska, is launching a pilot program to provide financial services to legal marijuana-related businesses (MRBs).

President and CEO James Wileman said Monday the credit union does not take a “political or moral position” on the legalization of marijuana by providing services to these businesses. Wileman noted Alaskans voted to legalize marijuana in 2014 and the first licenses were granted in 2016. While a growing number of credit unions have entered the pot banking space, some analysts have predicted that policy in that arena might be one potential area of compromise for a gridlocked legislature during the next Congress.

Over the past two years, the marijuana industry has grown exponentially in Alaska, the credit union reported. Sales are on track to total $200 million at the retail level in 2018. However, due to a lack of financial services available to legal pot shops and other related businesses, “our streets have been flooded with cash, resulting in a community safety issue,” Wileman said in a press release.

“Credit Union 1 seeks to solve this issue by providing financial services to MRBs. When it comes to the financial needs of all their member-owners, Credit Union 1 seeks to meet the needs of everyone where they are at without judgment or prejudice,” he said, adding that the credit union has a tradition of helping the underserved.

“Our history, along with being a state-chartered credit union that only serves Alaskans, puts Credit Union 1 in the best position to provide services to the MRB industry,” Wileman added.

Representatives from the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Board, the State of Alaska Tax Division and the MRB industry reportedly made statements during a Monday press conference in support of this program and the benefits it is expected to provide to the area. To further support the communities it serves, CU1 said in 2019 it will donate a minimum of 1 percent of the profits received from this program to the #CU1LUV Community Fund which helps non-profits and Alaskans in need.

Through the first 11 months of 2018, CU1 said its members and employees have given more than $207,000 and volunteered more than 5,100 hours to support community-minded organizations and initiatives, from soup kitchens to youth engagement organizations.

Founded in 1952, Credit Union 1 serves 84,000 members and is open to anyone who lives or works in Alaska. The CU posted a net income of more than $5.2 million during the first three quarters of 2018, more than four times what it earned during the same period last year.

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