Congress needs to act to fix the mar­i­juana bank­ing is­sue.

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST -

In an ut­terly pre­dictable rul­ing, a fed­eral judge re­cently dis­missed a law­suit that sought ap­proval for the es­tab­lish­ment of a credit union for mar­i­juana busi­nesses in Colorado.

Much as we fa­vor such a credit union, why would any­one ex­pect any other out­come?

Judges, af­ter all, look at is­sues through the lens of the law. And while mar­i­juana con­tin­ues to gain footholds as a le­gal drug on the state level, at the fed­eral level it re­mains an il­le­gal sub­stance. What else was the judge to do?

U. S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jack­son ex­pressed sym­pa­thy for pot busi­nesses strug­gling un­der the cur­rent sys­tem, but in his or­der he said the courts sim­ply could not “look the other way.”

Colorado cre­ated Fourth Cor­ner Credit Union last year with the in­ten­tion of serv­ing the mar­i­juana in­dus­try.

An es­ti­mated 40 per­cent of Colorado mar­i­juana busi­nesses are with­out a bank, which means hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in cash are un­se­cured in Colorado. That is a huge safety is­sue.

Nev­er­the­less, the U. S. Fed­eral Re­serve Bank of Kansas City said it could not take de­posits or is­sue credit to the credit union be­cause the drug is still fed­er­ally il­le­gal.

It was a leap to think the Fed­eral Re­serve or the courts would ig­nore fed­eral law.

Congress needs to act to fix the bank­ing is­sue. And that may be a long time com­ing in this Repub­li­can­con­trolled Congress.

Colorado Rep. Ed Perl­mut­ter’s Mar­i­juana Busi­nesses Ac­cess to Bank­ing Act, in­tro­duced in April, is the right move to fix the prob­lem. But it was sent to com­mit­tee, where it has lan­guished.

The bill, which has 33 co- spon­sors, seeks to re­solve con­flicts be­tween state and fed­eral laws around pot. Specif­i­cally, it would pro­vide “safe har­bors” and ad­di­tional civil pro­tec­tions for banks work­ing with mar­i­juana busi­nesses. For ex­am­ple, reg­u­la­tors would not be able to threaten or limit a bank’s de­posit in­sur­ance, take any ac­tion or down­grade a loan made to a pot busi­ness.

It ap­pears to be a sen­si­ble so­lu­tion. Time will tell. As more states le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, it is likely that the mood will change on the fed­eral level around bank­ing reg­u­la­tions. But that change needs to hap­pen in Congress be­fore it will oc­cur in the courts.

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