COLORADO: A Few years ago, a Boulder woman who owned one of Colorado’s first dispensaries ran into some troubles with her bank. As she later recounted, the bank told her the money she was depositing into her business account reeked of marijuana.
The bank was willing to take her money, but she would have to do something about the smell. Maybe Febreze would help. Her bank, in other words, asked her to literally launder her money.
Since then, the relationship between marijuana businesses and their banks has only become more fraught and complicated. Talk to anyone involved in Colorado’s marijuana industry—regulators, market players, law enforcement—and they’ll likely agree that the biggest obstacle to bringing marijuana out of the shadows is the industry’s inability to obtain basic banking services.
The few Colorado marijuana operations still lucky enough to have bank accounts jealously guard the specifics for the protection of everyone involved, and reports of banks unceremoniously dropping pot clients are commonplace. The front desk at Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division is stocked with jumbo-sized money counters, since most marijuana businesses have no choice but to pay the tens of thousands of dollars in licensing fees and taxes in cash. The situation has become so vexing that members of both parties from Colorado’s congressional delegation recently joined together to urge Treasury and Justice Department officials to do something about it.