The world's first financial institution established specifically for the marijuana industry could be open in Colorado by Jan. 1.
The Colorado Division of Financial Services late Wednesday issued The Fourth Corner Credit Union an unconditional charter to operate, the first state credit-union charter issued in nearly a decade.
The next hurdles will be obtaining insurance from the National Credit Union Administration, the federal regulator of credit unions, and getting a master account from the Federal Reserve System.
Gov. John Hickenlooper's office called the charter "the end of the line" for the state's efforts to solve the marijuana industry's nagging problem: obtaining banking services.
Although the NCUA insurance is not guaranteed — sale and consumption of marijuana remain illegal under federal law — Fourth Corner can operate until NCUA makes its decision.
"A Colorado law of 1981 allows a credit union to open its doors while an application for share-deposit insurance is pending," said attorney Mark Mason, one of Fourth Corner's key organizers.
The NCUA review could take up to two years, Mason said.
"Now, the NCUA can come and look to see how it is functioning, and determine if they will issue the insurance, as they've issued to all the other 2,512 state-chartered credit unions in the nation," Mason said.