Colorado lawmakers put their stamp of approval on a measure earlier this week aimed at establishing the world’s first-ever banking system to cater to the marijuana industry.
State legislators approved a plan on Wednesday, which will allow marijuana-related businesses to stop operating inside the cash-only underground and push them in to the official ranks of legitimate commerce. In the past, financial institutions have turned their backs on pot businesses out of fears that the federal government would prosecute them for money laundering. Yet, forcing weed retailers, who deal in large amounts of cash, to essentially fend for themselves and operate under the threat of criminals has become a liability.
"This is our main problem: Financial services for marijuana businesses," Senator David Balmer told the Associated Press. "We are trying to improvise and come up with something in Colorado to give marijuana business some opportunity, so they do not have to store large amounts of cash."
In February, the US Treasury Department gave the banking industry special permission to work with the cannabis trade, but most banks have refused to operate under the agency’s conditional guidelines because of the overall risk involved.
To combat this, the approved measure would allow the marijuana industry to establish banking cooperatives, which would demand accountability from pot businesses and ensure taxes are being paid, while giving them access to essential banking services -- that is as long as the U.S. Federal Reserve grants them access to payment sites.
The plan has received bi-partisan support, and a spokesperson for Governor John Hickenlooper says he is expected to sign the plan into law once he has had a chance to examine the final language. Yet, some Republicans are concerned that the measure will not be good enough for the feds.