The First Bank Of Bud

COLORADO:  It was zero degrees in Denver on a late December morning, and the ice-covered streets were mostly empty. Mark Mason, wearing a full-length black coat, green wool hat and sunglasses, sat in a white Buick LaCrosse, eyeing the squat building across the street. It was the local branch of the Federal Reserve Bank.

“Behind that gate, that’s where the armored cars come in,” he said, pointing to a parking lot. “They’ve got a bunch of money in the basement — a bunch.”

For some months, Mr. Mason, 54, has been thinking about the bank and how, he said, “to break in.” Not to take money, but to leave it. Mr. Mason and a group of other entrepreneurs in Colorado want to start the first-ever financial institution established specifically to serve the pot industry. To do that, they need to make deposits in a Federal Reserve account, and the agency hasn’t let them. Such humdrum administrative decisions are made all the time by federal banking officials, but this one raises big political and legal issues between the federal government and the state of Colorado over the legalization of marijuana.

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