The Colorado legislature voted this week to create the nation’s first state-run financial co-operative for marijuana sellers, with the aim of giving newly legalised cannabis retail outlets access to key banking services through the US Federal Reserve.

The approval of the so-called “cannabis credit co-ops” came on the final day of the legislative session, as legislators seek to address problems that marijuana retailers face in having to operate on a cash-only basis, such as burglary.

The proposal’s chief sponsor, Representative Jonathan Singer, said the co-operatives were needed because traditional banks and credit unions had been hesitant to serve the burgeoning marijuana industry as long as the drug remained outlawed by the US federal government. “This is the final piece to our pot puzzle,” said Singer, a Democrat.

The bill now heads to Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper for his signature.

Voters in Colorado and Washington state legalised the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis by adults for recreational purposes in 2012. The states are also among 20 that allow the use of cannabis for medical reasons. The first recreational cannabis shops opened in Colorado in January, and Washington will follow later this year.

Under the bill, the financial co-operatives would work similarly to credit unions and would be governed by the state’s financial services commissioner. – Reuters