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Colorado pot co-ops: Why won't banks cooperate with pot-sellers in Colorado?

Colorado pot co-ops may soon be a reality after a plan in Colorado aimed at establishing the world's first financial system for marijuana was brought back to life after it suffered a near-death experience, according to an updated report from The Denver Post today. Businesses associated with the multi-million dollar marijuana industry in Colorado - where the sale of the drug for recreational use is permitted since the beginning of the year - are still without a place to store their money. After negotiations late on Thursday, members of the House Finance Committee decided to veto a proposal that would create the first banking system to the sellers of the substance, which, only in the first month after the release of sales in January, earned $14 million.

The measure would create a kind of financial cooperative, exclusive to stores licensed to sell the drug. The system, however, would have no guarantee of the Federal Reserve (Fed, the U.S. central bank) to offer banking services such as checks and credit cards.

The bill survived for less than 24 hours after being introduced on Wednesday and was vetoed by House Finance Committee under the justification that it was necessary to better assess the issue. However, as explained by the Denver Post, House Appropriations restored the original version Friday morning and sent the measure to a vote on the House floor.

"Let's take some time to have this properly vetted," admitted the Republican Kevin Priola, who introduced the amendment calling for a reassessment.

The marijuana industry in Colorado, which already allowed the sale of the drug for medical use, has had difficulty accessing the banking system, because the substance is considered illegal by federal law. In February, the Departments of Justice and Treasury issued a statement suggesting that banks could offer basic services to the sector. At the time, the statement cited, among other benefits, the ease of overseeing a business that is currently based only on cash. Even so, financial institutions remain resistant.

To representatives of the banking sector of the state, the proposal for Colorado pot co-ops was doomed to failure, NPR said. The idea had been presented two years ago, when only the medicinal use was permitted, but was not approved.

"We really do not believe that that will work," said Don Childers, president of the Colorado Bankers Association.

For now, Colorado pot co-ops still needs a vote of approval from the Federal Reserve Bank in order to access the national banking system. But as the Denver Post report explained, such measures aren't expected to be granted.

What's your opinion on the Colorado pot co-ops? Should the banks cooperate with Colorado's booming pot industry?

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