BECU, formerly known as Boeing Employees Credit Union, refused to grant a bank account yesterday to a consulting business that handles zoning for cannabis stores, even though the business has no direct contact with marijuana, only to make a sudden turnabout today.
Ben Livingston had recently started a company that deals with zoning rules for future marijuana outlets, which, potential federal lawsuits allowing, will be legal at the end of the year. Livington's business primarily makes maps like this one showing where the retail outlets may be legally located (not many places, it turns out). He had approached BECU Thursday to open a bank account. But, as he explains on a web page he posted, the company "told me the credit union will refuse accounts for any company whose work could support legal cannabis businesses the state intends to license later this year."
So I followed up this afternoon, about two hours ago, and spoke with BECU spokesman Todd Pietzsch. He told me that "if the business sells cannabis, it is illegal at the federal level, and we can't do that because we are federally insured." But when I pointed out that Livingston's business, the Center for Legal Cannabis, was a consulting firm that had no direct contact with the drug, Pietzsch said that "if he is not doing anything illegal at the federal level, there is no reason to deny the account."
When I reached Livington about one hour later, he told me that one of the credit union's account managers had called him 45 minutes earlier to say they changed their mind. "They said that they reviewed my business and decided they were going to open an account for me," says Livingston. He adds that he's "relieved."
Why did BECU start singing this new tune? Pietzsch said he "didn't speak with anyone [at BECU]. Maybe there was just a misunderstanding or something." That's good. I guess Livingston's website and calls from the press weren't necessary after all.