Denver Council: Multimillion-dollar state marijuana industry needs banking access

Council cites public safety concerns

DENVER - The Denver City council voted unanimously Monday night to approve a proclamation asking for marijuana businesses to have access to federal banking institutions.

The request was made as the National Cannabis Industry Association released a statement that Colorado recreational marijuana businesses rang up "well over $5 million in sales in the first five days of operation."  

Yet, because marijuana is still illegal under federal law, processing money from marijuana sales could put federally insured banks at risk of drug racketeering charges.

As a result, most marijuana business now deal in cash-only sales, which council members say, opens them up to public safety and accountability issues.

"It's almost frankly embarrassing," said Council member Charlie Brown, while describing the lengths pot shops go to to protect their cash. "(Employees) take three black briefcases. They leave at the same time -- three different people, and only one has the cash. This is how a business is forced to operate."

"Please, Washington, please," said Brown. "Grow up and let this business be a business and have a normal banking relationship like any other business."

Denver is just the latest to call for banking reform. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and several members of the state's congressional delegation have also called for action.

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