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Amendment 64 pushes need for pot banks: Could tribal nations be the solution?

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While Governor John Hickenlooper had a conference call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to talk about the federal response to the passage Amendment 64, and Mason Tvert, the architect of that victory, was chatting with Bill Maher, hundreds of people gathered in Denver for the National Marijuana Business Conference 2012, which notably did not have "medical" in its title and carried the slogan, "Let's Get Down to Business."

But how do you get down to business when banks will not do business with you?

One of the convention panels tackled that sticky topic, which Hilary Bricken, an attorney with Washington-based Canna Law Group, summed up as "tumultuous." While there are no laws on the books preventing banks from doing business with marijuana firms, she notes, banks concerned about the bottom line will nonetheless sever relationships with those operations on their own, just as credit-card companies have.

Shawn Coleman, a former aide to Jared Polis, worked with the last Colorado bank to openly open accounts for marijuana businesses; that ended last year. Polis also pushed a bill that would have put the ability for banks to work with marijuana businesses officially on the books, but the proposal didn't make it to the floor. He has more hope for Congress now, with at least fifteen members of the House assigning staffers to work on marijuana, and a senator-elect who's marijuana-friendly.

But for people who are part of the green rush, the most intriguing opportunity might lie not with the Colorado Legislature (Pat Steadman tried a credit-union plan last year that was defeated by the banking industry, and state lawmakers will have their hands full writing and passing the enabling legislation for Amendment 64) and not in Congress, but with Indian tribal governments. From the audience, local attorney Robert Corry brought up the possibility of working with Indian-owned banks. "Their treaties supersede federal laws," he pointed out. And as sovereign nations, Indian reservation could work with marijuana businesses with no fear of federal oversight.

The gold rush and the subsequent fight for Indian lands helped start those reservations. Maybe the green rush will help give tribes their due.

Miss Mason Tvert on Bill Maher? Check out "Video: Marijuana Amendment 64's Mason Tvert should help pass act in Cali, says Bill Maher."


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