Last week, Colorado became the first place in the world to legally sell regulated and taxed marijuana for adult recreational use. Despite the winter weather, long lines and heavy demand led some stores to jack up their prices or even sell out of product. The early success has elevated expectations for a new ‘green” economy, with a projected market value of $10.2 billion by 2018, according to Arcview Market Research.

But one crucial detail threatens to hold the industry back.

Because the federal government still classifies pot as a dangerous drug, corner cannabis stores and cultivators cannot secure access to traditional banking services, and do a shocking amount of their business in cash. Banks are reluctant to work with pot-related businesses, out of fear that the government will prosecute them for laundering illegally obtained money. This heightens the potential for crime at pot shops, imposes heavy costs on businesses seeking legitimacy, and could cripple the industry just as it gets started.

‘I run a state-approved business, and I don’t have the ability to walk into a bank and open a bank account,” business owner Alex Cooley told Salon. Cooley’s Solstice Grown is the first legally permitted cannabis production facility in Washington state, and […]

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