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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    DENVER, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- Colorado legislators say they plan to propose a sort of credit union to back medical-marijuana dispensaries.

    The medical-marijuana industry in the state is already subject to the most comprehensive set of regulations in the country, but the proposed "financial cooperative" would greatly ease financial operations for businesses, legislators said.

    State Sen. Pat Steadman told The Denver Post the bill would plug a hole in Colorado's medical-marijuana regulations.

    "The inability to have a financial institution to do their banking with really hinders regulatory enforcement," Steadman, a Democrat, said. "So it's in everybody's interest that these people don't have piles of money lying around … and, instead, there's a paper trail."

    Because of federal insurance regulations, banks are often hesitant to work with businesses that deal in medical-marijuana.

    In October 2011, the last bank in the area to openly work with the businesses closed their accounts in a rash of closures out of fear of violating the Controlled Substances Act.

    Jan 11, 2012


  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Lawmakers vow bill to allow medical-pot co-ops as banks shut out industry

    Colorado's medical-marijuana industry, already subject to the most comprehensive cannabis-business regulations in the country, might soon have another national first to its credit: a bank, of sorts.

    Two state lawmakers said they plan to propose a bill that would allow the industry to form a "financial cooperative" to provide banking services to medical-marijuana businesses. The cooperative would work like a credit union, with membership limited to industry members. But it would be free of the kinds of federal insurance requirements that exist with banks and credit unions and that have made those institutions reluctant to work with medical-marijuana businesses.

    State Sen. Pat Steadman, a Denver Democrat who is one of the bill's proponents, said the cooperative would plug a hole in state medical-marijuana regulations.

    "The inability to have a financial institution to do their banking with real ly hinders regulatory enforcement," Steadman said. "So it's in everybody's interest that these people don't have piles of cash lying around . . . and, instead, there's a paper trail."

    Steadman — who is working with state Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, on the measure — said he plans to introduce the bill next week.

    The bill is expected to be the major focus of medical-marijuana-related lobbying at the state Capitol during this year's legislative session, which starts today. Massey said he thinks legislators — after two previous sessions of furious medical-marijuana law-making — are content this year to see how the regulations are working.

    "I hope we let it work a little bit before we start tinkering with it," Massey said.

    The difficulty in finding banking services is a persistent complaint for the medical-marijuana industry. In October, the last bank in Colorado to openly work with dispensaries closed those accounts. That followed a series of account closings at other banks that were wary of federal law that makes all marijuana distribution illegal.

    Last year, Massey proposed that the state create and oversee investment trusts for the industry, an idea ultimately rejected over concerns it would make the state an active conspirator in federal crimes. Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh also criticized that proposal.

    In a letter to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, Walsh wrote he would "consider civil and criminal legal remedies regarding those who invest in the production of marijuana . . . even if the investment is made in a state-licensed fund of the kind proposed."

    A spokesman for Walsh could not be reached for comment about the new bill. A spokesman for Suthers, who also opposed the investment trusts, said it was too early to comment on the new proposal.

    The head of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, the most influential cannabis-industry lobbying organization at the Capitol, said passing the bill will be its top priority this session.

    "The creation of financial co-ops is critical for the continued legitimacy of the industry," Mike Elliott, the group's executive director, said in a statement.

    By John Ingold
    The Denver Post

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