DENVER (6/10/14)--Colorado is inching ever closer to removing cash from the marijuana industry equation, as Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Friday that could establish the world's first financial system for pot businesses (the Cannabist June 6).
Concerned for the safety of the cash-only businesses working within the recently legalized industry-- businesses banks won't yet offer services to for fear of breaking federal law--advocates of the legislation hope that this network of uninsured cooperatives the legislation would form would provide pot businesses basic financial services such as checking accounts.
A credit union in Washington, the only other state in the United States to legalize recreational sales of marijuana, has begun offering services to a select group of pot businesses--though marijuana retailers are still barred (News Now May 9).
Running these businesses entirely on cash is becoming more and more of a perilous operation, as the high volumes of on-hand currency are likely to attract robberies and other crime.
Mike Elliot, Marijuana Industry Group representative, told the Cannabist that a member of his organization was recently robbed, and that tensions are beginning to rise for employees and businesses trying to make their way in this new business world.
"We don't need a vault. What we need is checking," Elliot told the Cannabist. "We're looking for a way to take cash out of the businesses."
The only way the financial cooperative will happen, however, is with the approval of the Federal Reserve, which has not yet agreed to approve a financial system for marijuana businesses.
While Colorado legalized recreational marijuana on Jan. 1, federal law still deems recreational sales and use illegal.
Some have even called the legislation symbolic, as it carries no weight without the endorsement of the federal government. Though, lawmakers in Colorado say it's still important to pass the bill.
"At minimum, it's a 'send a message' bill," Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) told the Cannabist. "Hopefully, it becomes a leverage point to get some attention and get some action on the part of the federal government," he said. "Because they hold the keys on this one. We can't solve this problem at the Statehouse in Denver. It's going to require action and participation on the part of federal officials, and hopefully this gets us there."