Restrictive federal banking regulations that have forced most legal marijuana dispensaries to run as cash-only businesses have opened the door to another enterprise — automated teller machines — that seems to be a natural fit, reports the Denver Post. The mixture of a booming recreational marijuana trade with easily acquired ATMs has some wondering whether it’s likely to yield more trouble than good. The overriding worry is that the legal-marijuana industry could quickly become the innocent vehicle for criminal enterprises looking to launder cash through ATMs serving the fledgling, cash-reliant business.
Exacerbating the issue: There are thousands of privately owned ATMs across Colorado, but no one place — not law enforcement, not state or federal banking regulators, not even the ATM networks themselves — knows who owns them all or, for that matter, where they are located. ATMs owned by banks are regulated by federal banking laws. Privately held ones are regulated by states that choose to do so — and Colorado isn’t one of those that does. That makes law enforcement and regulators even more nervous. “That’s not only a disaster waiting to happen; it’s a disaster that will happen,” said Jeff Sweetin, a former agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Colorado. “It’s almost an ideal way for the criminal element to operate. Any time you have an easy ability to move large amounts of cash into the system without checks and balances … you’re wide open.”