DENVER - On Thursday, Colorado state legislators debated a last-minute bill to give marijuana businesses a place to do their banking.
But the plan to set up the world's first financial system for marijuana survived less than 24 hours before state lawmakers changed course and shelved the idea.
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.
Despite a recent list of federal guidelines for banks who wish to do business with pot companies, the banking industry says it does not have enough protection to provide accounts to pot companies.
That leaves pot growers and shops to deal in a lot of cash. Some even pay their taxes and payroll in cash, requiring armed security, a system they argue is potentially dangerous.
"We are living on borrowed time. I'm completely surprised that nothing has happened," said Sally Vander Veer, who manages finances for a North Denver marijuana company called Medicine Man. "My hope is that it doesn't take someone getting hurt or killed before Congress will act on it."
HB 1398, which was being backed by Gov. John Hickenlooper's (D-Colorado) office, would have created state-regulated financial services co-ops designed to allow marijuana businesses to save their money, pay bills and collect payments.
This basic concept has been rejected by lawmakers before over concerns that the co-ops won't be able to actually access any of the money transfer systems needed to perform tasks like direct deposit and cashing checks, which are regulated by the federal reserve.
This year's bill was more detailed thanks to the backing of the governor's office, industry sources tell 9NEWS.
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