In Colorado, the last bank that worked openly with medical marijuana businesses was the Colorado Springs Bank, and they closed the last remaining dispensary and clinic business accounts they had in September of last year. At the time they said it was due to concerns about legal issues. Jon Whiten, President of Colorado Springs State Bank that at one time courted those kinds of business accounts, said that the legal and regulatory issues need to be resolved before banks can handle those kind of business accounts, citing increased federal pressure.
Colorado MMCs, as well as dispensaries and medical marijuana business in other medical marijuana states, have been left with few banking options. In Colorado, in particular, state law requires medical marijuana businesses to keep diligent track of every transaction, but record keeping is very difficult for the average business owner if they have no bank to work with. So, cut off from the traditional banking options, a Democrat and a Republican have teamed up to co-sponsor Senate Bill 75 in Colorado to help create a system that marijuana businesses can turn to for help. Democratic Senator Pat Steadmad and Republican Rep. Tom Massey would like to create financial cooperatives that would be regulated similarly to credit unions, but be insured by non-federal insurance policies.
Robert Friechtel, the director for the Medical Marijuana Business Exchange estimates that about half of Colorado’s 700 registered dispensaries lost their accounts last September when the Colorado Springs Bank changed their policies. Some kind of industry banking is needed so that business owners can run their businesses successfully and safely.
Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado says that Senate bill is a positive step forward for an industry that is crying out for sensible banking. The problem has been brewing for quite a while, with big name national banks closing any marijuana-tied legal businesses back in 2007 when the DEA warned big banks that they could face potential legal liabilities if they did business with dispensaries. Dispensary owners would just be happy to put their money somewhere, there is a public safety issue in general if business have to exist with piles of cash laying around. Both Representatives agree that there might be some danger of a federal intervention, but remain hopeful that this moves the issue forward to a solution that works for business owners.