We originally spoke with Denver legislator Sen. Pat Steadman on Monday about the new bill he's co-sponsoring with Rep. Tom Massey and introducing next week — breaking the news first on Twitter — and were planning to hold the development until we printed Thursday. However, the Denver Post has run with its piece, so here are parts of our interview with Steadman that compliment what you'll read in tomorrow's CannaBiz column.
Before we could get into the details on the proposed Medical Marijuana Financial Cooperative bill, the good senator wanted to make it clear that he wasn't sure this whole effort would be worth much in the end, even if it does pass.
"Well, you know, I go back and forth as to whether or not this is really a problem we can solve locally or whether federal law is really where the problem lies and where the solution must come from," he says. "And clearly, federal law is where the problem is coming from. Can we do something locally? Maybe.
"And so there’s people I’ve been working with on this bill that have been coming at it from two schools of thought. And one group thinks that there are some things we can do that might work, on a very limited cobble-something-together basis. The other group thinks that it’s gonna take a change in federal law or federal policy and that the one thing we can do locally is draw attention to the issue, and educate, and pull our hair out and kick and scream."
Steadman finds himself squarely in the first group, and so the attempt is to allow the state of Colorado to issue a charter to an institution that would create a cooperative, accessible only to those in the medical marijuana industry. And then it still wouldn't be able to do business with outside banks.
And, ultimately, the government may not even act on its new powers.
"It would still be up to the state commissioner of financial services — that’s who regulates these entities — whether or not to grant that charter; it depends on who comes forward and what their business plan and what their capital looks like," Steadman says. "But if they can get a charter, they could create this cooperative for members that are licensees or patients in the industry and those folks could have deposits with this institution."
The senator — who worked with Rep. Massey last year on House Bill 1043, the so called clean-up bill — thinks that the opportunity for other people to compete with the banks might just draw them out of the shell they hide in to avoid potential federal money laundering charges.
"I had today representatives of the banking and credit union associations; they’re not sure whether they would oppose this legislation or just sit quietly by and scoff at it and say it’s not gonna work," says Steadman. "But then again, if it does work, they may feel like they’re missing out on something. Although, they could be the ones that come forward and ask for a charter and create this stand-alone institution for this purpose. If they really cared that much about serving this market, there’s a way they could do it."
And since no good interview about political issues deriving from federal actions is complete without a dig at Congress, Steadman added this:
"I think everybody agrees this is a problem — there’s just not a real clear consensus on what the solution is, absent an act of Congress. And I think we all have about the same level of confidence in this Congress’ ability to solve any problems."