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Colorado Congress members support U.S. marijuana banking bill 

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click to enlarge Sen. Corey Gardner - FILE PHOTO
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  • Sen. Corey Gardner

Congress members support U.S. marijuana banking bill

Pot shops deal with a lot of crap that's unique to a product that's legal in the state but illegal on the federal level. Most members of Colorado's Congressional delegation want to lift at least some of that burden — in this case, providing access to banking services.

Sens. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, and Cory Gardner, a Republican, are supporting "The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act of 2017," as are Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Diana DeGette and Jared Polis, all Democrats, and Rep. Mike Coffman, a Republican. To put it another way, every official elected to represent Colorado in Congress is a part of this effort except Republican Reps. Scott Tipton, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn.

The legislation would create protections for banks, essentially assuring they wouldn't be penalized for accepting deposits from a "cannabis-related legitimate business." They would also be allowed to re-invest income derived from such services, and maintain a legal interest in marijuana-related assets used as collateral for loans.

The SAFE Act aims to address a public safety concern first and foremost.

click to enlarge Sen. Michael Bennet. - FILE PHOTO
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  • Sen. Michael Bennet.

Currently, most banks won't deal with marijuana businesses for fear they could be liable for dealing in drug money. But the notion that weed is an all-cash industry is only partially true — as of 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury does, in fact, allow for marijuana banking with extra oversight, per guidance from the Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). Even so, the perception that pot shops are full of not only weed, but also cash, generates problems.

They're frequently the targets of robbery and burglary, despite serious security measures. And when criminals encounter such obstacles, things can go south, like they did at an Aurora dispensary last summer when a security guard, Travis Mason, was shot and killed by masked robbers.

Part of the reason pot shops' products are so valuable, of course, is because they're illegal in other states. If the SAFE Act passes, security industries that cropped up after legalization could see less demand — particularly armored vehicle delivery.

The bill is currently assigned to the House Judiciary and Financial Services Committees, and the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

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