Plan seeks to move the marijuana industry away from its cash-only roots.
DENVER - If they had a scoreboard in the state legislature, the final day's result might read something like this: Hemp growers-1, Bankers-0.
State lawmakers had what looked like a light load on the final day of the 2014 legislative session, but the final gavel was held up by tense negotiations on marijuana banking.
In the end, the state House of Representatives ignored the objections of the Colorado Bankers Association, and passed the bill to create state-regulated co-ops to provide banking services to the marijuana industry.
Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) intends to sign the bill, despite working with CBA to bring the policy forward in the first place.
"We are very happy this legislation passed," said the governor's marijuana coordinator Andrew Freedman. "This gives us an avenue to go to the Federal Reserve and get cash of the street. That was by far our number one priority."
A lack of ability for pot companies to use banks is seen by all sides as a danger, because dealing mainly in cash makes the new industry a target for robberies.
"We do not support this version of the bill," said CBA lobbyist Jenifer Waller, whose organization made news by taking a neutral stance on the bill when it was introduced.
The CBA's position changed because the state senate added hemp growers to the list of people who could get accounts with co-ops, if the Fed approves them.
Growers of hemp, a version of the Cannabis plant which contains only trace amounts of THC, claim they are starting to be turned away by banks, just like marijuana companies.
Banks who do business with pot companies are technically committing money laundering under federal law, which bans cannabis despite the plant's legalization under Colorado state law.
Sponsors of the banking bill tried but failed to broker a compromise amendment to satisfy both the hemp growers and the banking lobby.
Critics call the bill foolish, arguing that there's only a slim chance the Fed would give its blessing to Colorado's plan.
The marijuana lobby says this is the last chance to solve the industry's banking crisis without needing approval from congress.