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Colorado 'cannabis credit co-ops' seek Federal Reserve clearance

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Yesterday, June 17, Hillary Clinton said she supports states like Colorado and Washington that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana. However, federal banking laws have not been as receptive. Since Colorado legalized marijuana, sales have been off the charts. As in, Colorado’s first quarter marijuana sales clock in at a hefty $22 million. But one problem continues to hinder cannabis business owners; banks are unwilling to offer marijuana businesses accounts, because they want to avoid possible federal prosecutions.

Although federal agencies announced financial guidance for marijuana businesses, American Bankers Association President and CEO, Frank Keating, said in a press release, “As it stands, possession or distribution of marijuana violates federal law, and banks that provide support for those activities face the risk of prosecution and assorted sanctions.”

Conversely, on June 13, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed HB 1398, also known as the “Marijuana Financial Services Cooperatives Act,” which allows state licensed cannabis business owners to participate in state regulated credit co-op. The new financial services are specific for marijuana business operations. For instance the bill indicates, “the commissioner cannot allow more than 10 charters for cannabis credit co-ops to be outstanding at any one time, and all must be examined at least every 6 months.” Marijuana business owners are hoping the federal government will amend the current laws, because their business operations are placed at risk with cash only. In the last four months of 2014, Denver Police reported 49 burglaries and one robbery at marijuana businesses.

Colorado marijuana business owners also have backing from the National Cannabis Industry Association, which promotes the idea that, “medical and adult-use marijuana providers are afforded the same bank and financial services as any other legitimate business.” However, pot advocates aren’t sure the new “cannabis co-op” will work.

President and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association, Don Childears, agrees creating cannabis co-ops laws will not solve the cannabis business banking issues. However, Mike Elliott, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group believes it will give a very strong message to federal government that they need to make a final decision soon, so that banks and the booming cannabis industries can move forward and prosper without doing business in fear of being targeted for crimes, or prosecutions. Now that the cannabis co-op bill has passed, it’ll still need clearance from the Federal Reserve.

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