When Governor Hickenlooper signed a marijuana banking bill into law last Friday, it was a welcome step forward in regulation of the new industry—but it will probably prove to be largely symbolic.

The new law would establish credit union-style financial cooperatives for vendors of legalized marijuana that have so far been conducting most of their business on a cash-only basis. This practice has created an environment in which store owners and their employees are vulnerable to robbery either on site or when they try to move funds to a safer location. In fact, last week the Denver Police Department said it had unearthed a plot to rob marijuana couriers of cash and product, but to date no arrests have been announced.

Establishing banking services would remedy much of this problem, as it would enable these outlets to conduct operations much like any other business. Because marijuana is still federally illegal, few people expect the FDIC to recognize Colorado’s new law (so the credit unions would still not be insured).

The first half-year of life under legalized marijuana has been saturated with press coverage from all over the nation and the world, much of it inaccurate or needlessly inflammatory. If federal legislators ignore the new banking law, they’ll essentially be rubber-stamping an environment that will encourage crime—particularly violent crime—more than a well-regulated legalized marijuana market ever would. Situations such as these make for splashy headlines, but they’re lousy and shortsighted policy.

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