Frankenmuth Credit Union launches new program to service cannabis businesses despite legal grey area 

click to enlarge Marijuana makes money. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • Marijuana makes money.

Earlier this year, U.S. regulators penalized a Michigan credit union for servicing accounts belonging to owners and operators of legal cannabis businesses.

Though Michigan voted to legalize recreational adult-use cannabis in 2018 — and is one of the more than 30 U.S. states that have recreational and/or medical weed programs — marijuana remains illegal on the federal level, which prohibits banks and credit unions from doing business with canna-businesses under the Controlled Substances Act, which is, well, a total crock of shit.

Despite the federal legal gray area, Frankenmuth Credit Union has launched Envy, a pilot program dedicated to servicing cannabis businesses in the community. (Envy as in green, as in weed is green ... get it?)

Voted by Forbes as the best credit union in the state of Michigan in 2020, the Frankenmuth-based not-for-profit cooperative services 60,000 people and, through the new program, will add "just one or two new cannabis-related business members each month" for the remainder of 2021. Those businesses that are interested in being considered for the program will be added to the waitlist.

“It was important for Frankenmuth Credit Union to provide banking services to cannabis-related businesses, but it was also important that we did so in the right way," CEO Vicki Schmitzer shared in a press release. "This meant conducting extensive research into what the industry needed and developing a compliant program around those needs."

For Envy, Frankenmuth Credit Union partnered with Green Check Verified, a financial tech company that focuses on "enabling financial institutions to safely and efficiently offer services to legal cannabis businesses." Per a press release, Green Check Verify supports cannabis banking programs throughout 32 states and offers specialty software to financial institutions and their cannabis industry folks, including growers and retailers.

In April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lent her support — and urged fellow governors and legislators to do the same — to the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would allow financial institutions to bank with cannabis businesses that are state-licensed and that have, up until now, had very limited legal banking options.

“Michiganders voted overwhelmingly to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in 2018, and we must respect the will of the voters,” Whitmer said in April. “Although legalization continues rolling on nationwide, we still have federal laws on the books that prohibit financial institutions from working with marijuana businesses legally under state law."

Whitmer continued, "To be blunt, legalization is great for the economy: it creates jobs and boosts tax revenue that can go towards our schools, communities, and first responders. This legislation ensures that Michigan’s marijuana businesses can grow and access the same resources that all legal businesses can.”

Those interested in Frankenmuth Credit Union's Envy program or wish to be added to the waitlist are encouraged to email envy@frankenmuthcu.org.

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