TIME Drugs

Pot Banking Greenlit in Colorado, But There’s a Hitch

Pot Marijuana Bank Colorado
Craig F. Walker—Denver Post/Getty Images Grower Joe Rey feeds marijuana plants a combination of nutrients and molasses in a flower room at 3-D Denver Discreet Dispensary in Denver on Dec. 04, 2013.

The financial cooperatives could theoretically give the medical marijuana industry easy access to banking services, but they're unlikely to receive the necessary approval from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Colorado lawmakers approved a financial system that aspires to provide access to banking services for legal marijuana sellers who have largely been shunned by wary banks.

The bill, which still has to be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who has supported the idea, aims to wean the marijuana industry off of its dependence on cash, which makes it a target for criminals and is less easily tracked for tax purposes, the Associated Press reports.

Most banks rejected pot businesses even after Jan. 1, when Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales, amid concerns that the federal government would come after them. The Obama administration has signaled that it would let banks do business with state-license marijuana suppliers despite federal law, but it has not issued blanket immunity.

“This is the final piece to our pot puzzle,” Representative Jonathan Singer, the chief sponsor of the proposal, told Reuters. The bill would create financial cooperatives, similar to credit unions, for marijuana businesses.

But while the proposal highlights the problems facing the legal marijuana industry, it’s unlikely to pan out. The cooperatives would only take effect if the U.S. Federal Reserve lets them perform services like accepting credit cards and checks, which is unlikely particularly because the cooperatives will not have deposit insurance.


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