Backing down from a five-hour fight over whether industrial hemp farmers should be able to access a new credit union-like arrangement for marijuana businesses, the Colorado House narrowly passed a bill that would create the first cooperative of its kind, reports the Denver Post. Acquiescing to Senate insistence that hemp farmers be allowed to join the cooperatives, representatives sent the bill to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk for approval and, ultimately, a showdown with federal banking regulators. The cooperative setup requires approval by the U.S. Federal Reserve, which regulates the nation’s banking system.
It is unclear whether Hickenlooper will sign the bill with the politically powerful bankers lobbies opposed to it, or with the hemp provision included. Part of the concern with not being able to access regular banking is that marijuana businesses are then forced to be cash-only, making them targets for crime. Many business owners, however, have learned how to access bank services, often by disguising themselves behind non-descriptive corporate names. The entire experiment — there are no commercial credit unions in America — hinges on approval by the Federal Reserve Bank, which oversees the nation’s payment system. Credit unions, by law, are restricted to individual membership.