Good banking relationships are hard to come by in the marijuana industry. Several businesses have even been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements before making deposits at certain banks. Fourth Corner is hoping to change that by opening the world's first marijuana credit union. (Craig F. Walker, Denver Post file)

Colorado pot credit union surveys industry, gains location

An online survey is gathering information about where the pot industry currently banks and what the world’s first marijuana credit union can do to lure its business.

The 20-question survey for the Fourth Corner Credit Union appeared late Friday on the website

“It’s to ensure the products are designed for the industry and that the pricing is competitive,” said Mark Mason, an attorney instrumental in helping the Fourth Corner form and obtain its state charter.

Fourth Corner has leased a former bank building at the corner of West Colfax Avenue and Tremont Place, across from the Denver Justice Center and the U.S. Mint. But it cannot open until the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City approves a master account.

The survey was developed, Mason said, as a better way to answer questions from the National Credit Union Administration, which is deciding whether to issue the deposit insurance Fourth Corner needs to operate a full-service credit union.

“Basically it’s to help answer, if you build it, will they come?” Mason said. “We needed to create a vehicle to gain the information about what exactly is going on.”

“NCUA wanted to know that if the estimated number of accounts doesn’t play out that they’ve not offered insurance to a credit union likely to fail,” he said.

There are questions about how businesses have been treated at other institutions, about the fees they are charged and how compliance issues — federal reporting rules for deposits tied to marijuana — are being handled.

The survey also asks for information marijuana business owners have refused to discuss openly — or even with each other, specifically where they bank. Banking relationships are hard to come by and so that information is often treated like a trade secret. Several businesses have said their accounts were closed shortly after sharing the information with competitors.

“Some banks have even asked them to sign non-disclosure agreements before agreeing to take their deposits,” said Martin Keeney, a national expert on anti-money-laundering who is working with Fourth Corner. “Our future membership is not that open and transparent to the world at large about their banking needs and where they are banking now.”

Map: Colorado recreational marijuana shops and medical dispensaries

The survey has raised an eyebrow among mainstream bankers.

“Many businesses, including banks, will conduct a feasibility study when looking to start up or to open a new location,” said Jenifer Waller, vice president of the Colorado Bankers Association. “However, we are not aware of any bank conducting this type of survey of potential customers before opening its doors.”

Once word got out about the credit union’s creation, its founders were inundated with inquiries that ranged from potential depositors to suppliers.

“We were getting up to 40 a day, for jobs and for those wanting to provide goods and services,” Mason said.

David Migoya: 303-954-1506, or

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