Colorado's legal marijuana sales surpassed $5 million this week, and most of that figure is almost certainly stacked in cash around Denver, because America's banks aren't accepting any of that dirty drug money.
Basically the banks are refusing to create accounts for marijuana businesses — medical or recreational — because although it's legal in Colorado, they don't know whether it's technically legal under banking regulations and they fear they could be punished by federal regulators.
But even Colorado's senators and representatives are pushing for Treasury and Justice to clarify the rules to the banks, because the amount of cash floating around is insanely dangerous.
The limitations have created unique burdens for legal marijuana business owners. They pay employees with envelopes of cash. They haul Chipotle and Nordstrom bags containing thousands of dollars in $10 and $20 bills to supermarkets to buy money orders. When they are able to open bank accounts — often under false pretenses — many have taken to storing money in Tupperware containers filled with air fresheners to mask the smell of marijuana.
"Carrying such large amounts of cash is a terrible risk that freaks me out a bit because there is the fear in my mind that the next car pulling up beside me could be the crew that hijacks us," one store owner, driving $50,000 cash to the IRS, told the New York Times. "So, we have to play this never-ending shell game of different cars, different routes, different dates and different times."
In the meantime, High Times magazine is apparently starting a private equity fund because banks aren't issuing loans to marijuana-based businesses.
[image via AP]