August 22, 2013

Colorado's Retail Cannabis Producing a Legal Patchwork

What is happening in Colorado with the new legalization of retail cannabis sales is starting to resemble the situation when states had "wet" and "dry" counties. Counties and cities are all making different decisions, e.g., Pueblo County's acceptance of a large growing operation.

¶ The mountain town of Westcliffe turned down a proposal (PDF file) to use an empty industrial building for a growing operation that would supply retail outlets in the ski town of Breckenridge. 

Those sybaritic ski towns, right? Keep 'em high and happy.

¶ Yet Aspen, most sybaritic of all, is located in Garfield County, which has said no to both growers and retailers. The Aspen Times accused opponents of "paranoia."

¶ Touristy Glenwood Springs proposed a marijuana-sales moratorium. So did less-touristy Cañon City.

I could go on.

Meanwhile, people who proudly got medical marijuana cards (a lot of them young men in their twenties) suddenly are realizing that the cops can go traipsing through those records.

The other big problem is money and banking. Banks have been reluctant to handle marijuana dispensaries' cash because doing so illegal under federal if not state law.
"The mere acceptance of the deposit is literally the very definition of money laundering," explained Don Childears, President and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association.
Dispensaries, therefore, end up trying to places to put all their cash, and piles of cash attract criminals.

Federal legislation has been introduced to remedy the problem, but has not yet gone anywhere.  All states with medical marijuana plus Colorado and Washington with their newly legalized recreational use face the same problem:
In all 21 of those states, federal laws are creating criminal and regulatory barriers to banks and credit unions, prohibiting them from accepting licensed marijuana growers, retailers and dispensaries as customers.
The federal government has the big stick, and the political journal Roll Call reports that President Obama's thinking "hasn't evolved."

Previous post on growers, "Making Money in a Mountain Subdivision."

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