The Denver city council passed a proclamation Monday asking that Colorado's legal marijuana businesses be granted access to the nation's banking system.
The proclamation came five days after Colorado became the first state to allow the sale of recreational pot. Denver's action adds to a growing chorus of calls for federal banking regulators to issue guidance designed to ease the concerns of wary banks.
Despite the more liberal approach being taken by numerous states including Colorado and Washington, which is on the verge of allowing recreational pot sales many banks are reluctant to open accounts for marijuana businesses because the drug remains illegal under federal law.
Federal banking agencies are facing pressure from governors, state banking regulators, and local law-enforcement officials to ease up on legal pot businesses. Those state and local officials hope to prevent armed robberies and money laundering in states where marijuana is currently being sold on a cash-only basis.
The relevant federal agencies have signaled that they do intend to provide more clarity to banks. But it's unclear whether any statement they eventually make will provide sufficient comfort to nervous bankers.
Involved in deliberations are the Justice Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the National Credit Union Administration.
U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., said in a news release Monday that a cash-only system raises concerns about crime and the loss of tax revenue. "We need to provide financial institutions certainty they can make their own business decisions without fear of regulatory penalties," he said in a statement released by the National Cannabis Industry Association.
Denver Councilman Chris Nevitt said that Colorado is comfortable with its trailblazing role in regulating the legal sale of pot, but getting the policy right requires the cooperation of the federal government.
"Don't trip us up and then accuse us of being clumsy," Nevitt said in the news release.
The Denver proclamation is being supported by at least nine of the city's 13 City Council members, according to a meeting agenda.