Marijuana credit co-op bill sneaks through House, heads to Hickenlooper

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DENVER — After a number of twists and turns on the final day of the legislative showdown, legislation to create a state-backed credit co-op to provide banking services to Colorado’s all-cash marijuana industry is on its way to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 1398, after a battle over whether or not to allow hemp businesses to take part, passed the full House on a 33-31 final vote after lawmakers there ended a stand-off between various factions and the Capitol’s two chambers by signing off on Senate changes to the bill, including allowing the inclusion of hemp businesses.

The Senate sponsors, notably Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, refused to budge and remove the hemp provision from the bill, despite objections from the Colorado Bankers Association, which had reluctantly gone along with the governor’s office and supported the proposal until the hemp amendment was added in a Senate committee on Tuesday.

At the end of the day, House sponsors and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office, both preferring a bill without the hemp amendment, decided that it was better to get the bill passed than risk blowing it up over the hemp provision.

“This bill will make marijuana businesses less likely to become targets for robbers,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, the bill’s sponsor. “This is the last major piece of the pot puzzle.”

Because the Federal Reserve Bank would still have to approve the creation of a state-backed credit co-op for marijuana businesses, the legislation is viewed as more of an ice-breaker, a way to send a message to Washington to come up with a solution for marijuana businesses that are barred by federal law from using banks.