Credit Union 1 is launching a pilot program to provide financial services to marijuana-related businesses.

The announcement was made Thursday by the credit union's president and CEO James Wileman at a press conference.

"We will begin offering banking services to the undeserved marijuana related businesses that operate in our great state," Wileman said. "Since voter approval in 2014 brought marijuana sales legal in the state of Alaska, the business has grown exponentially. In 2018, sales are on track to total over $200 million dollars."

According to Wileman, the lack of financial services for these businesses has created a "cash crisis and safety issue" in the community. Credit Union 1 plans to help solve this issue through the pilot program.

"We will begin with a pilot program to ensure that our processes are in regulatory and good legal standing," Wileman said. "From there, we will look to expand as quickly and as responsibly as possible."

Wileman said the credit union isn't taking a political or moral position on the legalization of marijuana. Credit Union 1 Senior Communications Specialist Jessica Gallagher reiterated that statement in a press release sent just after the conference.

"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," Gallagher said.

According to Gallagher, the credit union will also be donating a minimum of one percent of the profits received from the program to the #CU1LUV Community Fund in 2019. The fund helps nonprofits and Alaskans in need through supporting community initiatives like soup kitchens and youth engagement organizations.

"Imagine in your own life, running your household or business without the services you have today for banking," Wileman said. "Cash only, no banking allowed. My hat is off to those businesses for making it work, but they deserve better."

Scott Gross contributed to this report.

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