GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Several local business owners say they're being unfairly targeted by banks, because of what they sell.
Medical marijuana dispensary owners say banks are closing their accounts without reason and they want to know why. "I don't know any business that can run without having a bank account," says Shawn Kizer with Nature's Medicine.
But if things continue the way they are, Kizer says they'll have to. "We've gone and opened up accounts, people know what the business is and what we deal with. We have the accounts for a couple months and then they decide that we can no longer be part of their bank. We can no longer have accounts there," he says.
Kizer says, more and more, he's been discovering a good bank is hard to find if you sell marijuana. Since the store opened, they’ve already been kicked out of two banks, with no reason given. The first one an Alpine Bank in Durango. The second was a US Bank in Loveland. Kizer says, it was one of his employees who got the news at Alpine, "It was very unprofessional. The teller told him he was no longer allowed to have an account with that bank anymore."
Across town at GNS, they say they've had similar problems. Assistant Manager Blaine Bell says they had everything taken care of, "We did everything, we did credit cards through them we did our personal checks." He says things changed when the bank found out what service they provided. "When they found out they said, 'Yah, come close all your accounts,'" says Bell.
Since they haven't been offered any valid reasons for losing their accounts, both dispensaries say the reason is beginning to seem like discrimination. Bell says, "The fact that they're denying us service for what we sell is kinda ridiculous."
Calls to these banks weren't immediately returned but experts say that's not uncommon. "There's tons of privacy protections in place so that no bank will publicly discuss what goes on with individual accounts," says Tim Powers with the Colorado Bankers Association. But Powers says banks are very competitive. "In general banks do not want to close their accounts for obvious business practices," says Powers.
Powers says there are many factors that are considered when a bank closes an account, and uncharted waters could be one of them. Powers says, "It is a new industry and we're still trying to figure out exactly how to service and appropriately rate the risk of these types of businesses."
But Kizer says so far, he's still had no reason given from the two banks that have closed his accounts. On top of that, his most recent bank, Wells Fargo in Grand Junction, just put him under restriction, leaving him with a lot of questions, mostly unanswered. Kizer says, "They have told us we are not allowed to open any new accounts and our accounts that are opened are in question."
Nature's Medicine says they do have an account with a local bank, however. But because they want to expand, they'd like to use a national bank with branches in other locations.