ARVADA, Colo. – Democratic Colorado Governor Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) today announced the release of “Roadmap to Cannabis Banking & Financial Services,” which creates “clarity and guidance for state-chartered financial services industries that serve or seek to serve legal cannabis-related businesses,” according to a press release announcement.
“As the first state to establish a legal marijuana industry and one of the first to implement an industrial hemp program, Colorado has become a national economic leader in the cannabis industry,” said Polis, in the press release. “We are excited to release a bold, forward-thinking roadmap to provide much-needed guidance, clarity and support to state-chartered financial service providers that work with or are interested in working with the state-legal cannabis industry.”
DORA’s Executive Director Patty Salazar along with two divisions of DORA—the Division of Banking and the Division of Financial Services—worked to create the initiative, which will focus on areas including “clear regulatory guidance, encouraging new and emerging technologies in the banking and financial services space, reducing barriers while upholding consumer protection guardrails, and demonstrating state support for financial businesses wishing to explore cannabis banking.”
Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-colo.), Treasurer Dave Young, and Sundie Seefried, chief executive officer at Partner Colorado Credit Union, joined Polis and Salazar in announcing the initiative. Colorado would be the first to create state-sanctioned merchant banking for the cannabis industry. Federal prohibition has thus far prevented banks and other credit and financial institutions from allowing cannabis industry businesses access to conventional financial services, resulting in transactions that must be processed using cash only.
Both Young and Perlmutter cited issues involved with the cash only market environment as a hazard to public safety, and also an impediment for legal cannabis businesses to thrive or to experience continued growth.
Perlmutter, who was the main sponsor for the Secure and Fair Enforcement Act of 2019 (SAFE Banking Act), said, “Too many Colorado businesses, employees, and communities have been targets of assault, robbery, and other crimes due to the conflict between state and federal law when it comes to cannabis banking. I appreciate Governor Polis and his team working to improve access to the financial industry for Colorado cannabis and cannabis-related businesses.
“However,” Perlmutter added, “it is critical that Congress acts, including by advancing the SAFE Banking Act. Only by aligning state and federal law can we fully resolve the issues necessary to get cash off our streets and improve public safety in our communities.”
A call for action came from local cannabis businesses in the wake of a rash of armed robberies at eight Colorado dispensaries in the last two months.
“The root of the problem is that these dispensaries are being forced to deal in all cash,” National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) spokesperson Bethany Moore told Denver local news site 9News.com in mid-January. “In almost every dispensary, you see an ATM machine because they don’t accept debit or credit cards for purchase. They are subject to carrying lots of cash, which creates a public safety issue.”
The initiative was unveiled at Partner Colorado Credit Union, where the credit union’s Seefried said, “As a credit union, we saw the need to help pioneer a way to offer basic banking services to the cannabis industry to safeguard communities and our monetary system. Fortunately, the state of Colorado shared these goals.”