Medical marijuana is legal in California, but the combination of valuable drugs and what is often a cash-only business can attract some rough characters.
That's why some dispensaries use armored car companies to get their money to and from their favorite bank (or elsewhere). But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says no more. The federal authority has told armored car companies they can no longer work with some, perhaps all, cannabis retailers in California and Colorado.
The pro-pot forces were up in arms today:
The group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition called it "an unbelievably ill-advised move" after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new sentencing guidelines for low-level offenders such as pot users.
Holder is the DEA's boss: Is the Obama administration for or against medical marijuana?
Retired LAPD deputy chief Stephen Downing of LEAP says in a statement:
Combined with federal restrictions and threats made to banks about doing business with marijuana providers, this ensures that businesses known to carry large amounts of cash will be transporting that cash without professional protection. You couldn't create a situation more ripe for criminal intervention if you tried. It's like the directive was written by petty thugs rather than by one of the most powerful agencies of the US government.
In Los Angeles dispensaries have been victimized by violent, sometimes deadly robberies. That doesn't mean that armored cars are the solution, but some believe having armed guards pick up and deliver cash can be a deterrent.
Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center in Oakland:
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The federal government appears willing to do anything that will turn this inherently safe plant into something dangerous, no matter the impact on public health or safety. In 2011 they closed our bank accounts, which forced us to handle and store cash on-site. Now they have denied us any secure way to transport that cash to those whom we owe money--like the City of Oakland, and the California Board of Equalization.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said the move will continue to push the medical cannabis drug trade underground instead of out in the open where, he argues, it would be safer:
The true nature of the Obama administration's approach to voter-approved medical marijuana is now clear. They want more cash underground. They want our streets to be more dangerous.