Colorado may have found a way to jump over one of the major remaining hurdles for the legal marijuana industry in the state: Banking.
State lawmakers approved a plan for pot banking, passing a bill to create state-regulated co-ops to offer financial services to cannabis businesses. The governor, John Hickenlooper, is expected to sign the bill, and it will also need approval from the Federal Reserve.
Despite Colorado voters opting to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012, and stores now being able to sell it as of the start of the year, banking has been one area where legitimate recreational marijuana businesses have been shut out. Banks have reportedly shunned marijuana money, afraid of getting into trouble under federal law for money laundering, despite guidelines from the Treasury Department issued earlier this year to ease concerns.
That's amounted to cannabis being largely a cash business -- creating problems ranging from security for companies to obstacles for authorities trying to audit businesses and track tax revenue.
So does this co-op plan clear the way for marijuana businesses once and for all and provide a road map for other states looking to legalize marijuana?
"It's better than a green van roaming around with hundreds stacked in the back," says Yahoo Finance Breakout host Jeff Macke. But he says, "we have to grow up," arguing that Colorado has had to resort to these state measures like co-ops, or "crunchy green banks run by guys named Shaggy," because the federal government is "making it harder than it has to be."
In other words, a state like Colorado has to figure out these ad-hoc approaches because the federal government won't move forward on liberalizing marijuana laws and regulations.
"In the meantime, what we're doing is sacrificing federal revenue," he adds. In the end, "we're going to settle this based on the green -- not pot, cash," says Macke. Check out the video to see why.
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