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Colorado sets up marijuana banks, but Feds must ok

“We don’t a need a vault. What we need is checking,” he said. “We’re looking for a way to take cash out of the businesses.”

Colorado became the first state to allow recreational pot sales on Jan. 1. Denver Police issued a crime alert Thursday warning of a plot to rob marijuana couriers, those who take dispensary proceeds to pay taxes or bills.

The legislation would allow pot businesses to pool money in cooperatives. However, that will only happen with the blessing of the Fed, which has to agree to give the businesses access to payment systems.

That has prompted some in Colorado to argue the legislation is merely symbolic.

Read MoreNo more raids on medical pot shops: House

One of the sponsors of the banking bill, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said the legislation is an important step.

“At minimum, it’s a `send a message’ bill. Hopefully, it becomes a leverage point to get some attention and get some action on the part of the federal government,” he said. “Because they hold the keys on this one. We can’t solve this problem at the statehouse in Denver. It’s going to require action and participation on the part of federal officials and hopefully this gets us there.”

He said Friday that he had not heard anything from the federal government.

The U.S. Treasury Department said in February that banks could serve the marijuana industry under certain conditions. But a lot of banks have said the guidelines are too onerous.

Read MoreMinnesota Says ‘Yes’ to Medical Marijuana

Elliott said that has created a “ridiculous scenario” where pot businesses must pay taxes, but they end up doing so with piles of cash.

“We would love to pay our taxes with a check,” he said.

He said he doesn’t know yet whether Colorado’s banking plan will work. No businesses have yet said they plan to try forming a cooperative.

“But it’s us in Colorado doing everything we can to try to solve this problem,” he said.

—By The Associated Press

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