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Making It Safe for Banks to Take (Legal) Pot Money

Workers trimming leaves from pot plants to be packaged and sold at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver
Workers trimming leaves from pot plants to be packaged and sold at Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in DenverPhotograph by Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

Colorado’s pot sellers are open for businesses and enjoying brisk sales since recreational marijuana became legal under state law on New Year’s Day. What those stores do with the revenue they bring in, however, is a different question—one that’s gaining salience and attention as more and more legal pot businesses open up shop.

Anti-money laundering rules forbid banks from processing payments or holding accounts for businesses that deal in drugs that remain illegal under federal law. That has left pot businesses forced to operate largely in cash, hauling bags of bills in to pay state taxes and manage their books. As marijuana legalization spreads, with Washington State permitting recreational use and additional states embracing medical uses, more businesses will face this cash conundrum.