States across the nation are coming to their senses about cannabis by legalizing its recreational and medicinal use – abandoning one facet of the immoral, wasteful War on Drugs.
Although Washington has made small improvements, such as restricting the Justice Department from pursuing cannabis cases in states where it’s legal, the feds are still mired in the irrationality of prohibition.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) doubled down on its propaganda recently, claiming that cannabis grow houses in Colorado – where recreational use is legalized – are “the new meth houses.” We can take solace in the fact that this kind of absurdity is a sure sign of desperation for an agency that preys on the citizenry through its drug war.
Besides the denial of freedom to use a plant, the feds’ ongoing crusade against weed poses a direct danger to public safety. Because of federal banking restrictions, cannabis businesses in states where its sale has been legalized are forced to operate on a cash basis – making them a prime target for armed robberies.
Yes, the millions upon millions in sales that cannabis businesses are experiencing in states such as Colorado and Washington – which also generate millions in tax revenue for government – are largely contained in duffel bags full of cash that must be moved around with armored vehicles.
Things almost turned tragic once again in Seattle, Washington when two armed robbers took hostages at the Have a Heart medical and recreational cannabis store.
Surveillance video shows the masked gunmen enter the store and force a terrified employee to the ground at gunpoint. They had surprised the nightly guard (who was forced to be unarmed because of the federal “Cole Memo”) and pushed him into the store, whereupon they tied up the employees and raided the safe.
But good business practices saved the day. The store manager was watching the surveillance footage in real-time from his home – as required by protocol – and called the cops immediately, who were able to make it the scene in time and wait for the suspects to come out with large duffel bags of cash before apprehending them.
Store manager Damion Martinez told Leafly that he’s just glad everyone survived the incident with no harm.
“Everybody’s OK,” said Martinez. “They’re shook up and we’re trying to clean up and make it whole again. These people are like my own kids, they’re like my family, so it was really hard to watch. We’re working on healing up today and cleaning up our home and getting it ready.”
Have a Heart is just one of the thousands of businesses put at risk by senseless federal banking prohibitions and the Federal Reserve's refusal to grant master accounts for the cannabis industry.
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"In 2016, $1.2 billion in cash will be transacted by the cannabis industry in Colorado," said Mark Goldfogel, executive vice president of Fourth Corner credit union in Colorado. "That's all in $20 bills. At some point, someone is going to die."
Unfortunately, these words turned out to be true. On June 19, Travis Mason, a security guard at the Green Heart dispensary in Aurora, Colorado was shot dead by armed robbers. It was the second week on the job for the married father of three children.
Another security guard was shot in the head by robbers in San Bernardino, California, and another guard was killed the year before in the same city. In both cases, the robbers got away with loads of cash.
A store owner in Santa Ana was shot and wounded by armed robbers during his fourth month in business. In one incident last year, thieves got away with $100,000 in cash from a Seattle dispensary.
An armed store owner in Walnut Park, Los Angeles County was able to fend off two would-be robbers after watching them approach on security cameras.
If these successful places of business were not forced to deal in cash, the victims would still be alive and well today. To add insult to injury, while the feds deny banking privileges to cannabis businesses, the IRS gladly takes their tax money -- which is typically brought to them in piles of cash.
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer has strong words for the misguided policies:
"It just drives me crazy," Blumenauer says. "We have over 5,000 legal marijuana businesses around the country, a number of them here in Oregon, and because of the stupid policy they are required to be conducted on an all-cash basis."
Noble lawmakers like Blumenauer keep trying to change things, but keep getting blocked. Most recently, an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act – which would have opened the door for basic banking services in the cannabis industry – was blocked in the House.
Fortunately, some banks are engaging with cannabis businesses despite the threat of federal law, including state-chartered banks that have emerged largely to serve the cannabis industry.
While lawmakers continue denying banking rights to cannabis businesses in the ongoing futility of the drug war, people will continue to die and the public will continue to be put in danger by armed robberies that occur solely because of prohibition policies.