Colorado lawmakers shy away from pot bank

DENVER (AP) — A Colorado plan to set up the world’s first
financial system for marijuana survived less than 24 hours before state
lawmakers changed course Thursday night and shelved the idea.
The
proposal would have allowed state-licensed marijuana businesses to
create a financial co-op, sort of an uninsured credit union.
The
measure was introduced late Wednesday and cleared a House committee on
Thursday. But a few hours later, another House committee gutted the plan
by amending the bill to say that Colorado will continue studying the
problem of marijuana businesses having a hard time accessing banking
services.
Lawmakers from both parties expressed reservations about whether the financial-services plan would work.

"Let’s
take some time to have this properly vetted," said Rep. Kevin Priola,
R-Henderson, who sponsored the amendment to study the matter.
The
measure would have allowed state-licensed marijuana businesses to create
a financial co-op, sort of an uninsured credit union. The U.S. Federal
Reserve would still have to grant permission for the co-ops to provide
banking services like checking and credit.
Sponsors acknowledged
the plan was a long-shot attempt to again try to move the marijuana away
from its cash-only roots without running afoul of federal law. Colorado
has struggled for years to find ways to help its pot industry access
banks.
"I don’t know whether this will take an act of Congress or
an act of God at this point," joked Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont and
sponsor of the bill.
Banking groups testified that Colorado’s
co-op attempt was destined for failure. State lawmakers tried but failed
two years ago to set up a state-chartered bank for the marijuana
industry.
"We really do not believe that that will work," said Don Childers, head of the Colorado Bankers
Association.
"It
is flatly illegal to deal in any illegal substance or any proceeds
therefrom," said Childers, who testified that the banking guidance
issued in February only made banks less likely to accept risky marijuana
clients.
Colorado’s new marijuana coordinator, an office within
the executive branch, signed on to the plan, saying it can’t hurt even
if it doesn’t work.
"It’s the next logical step forward," Andrew Freedman said.
But lawmakers weren’t persuaded.
"It seems like we’re throwing spaghetti noodles against the wall to see if they stick," said
Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker.
___
Online:
House Bill 1398: http://bit.ly/R5seJf
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
redistributed.