With current restrictions as they stand, cannabusiness comes with risks. Despite the fact that medical marijuana is now legal in 25 states across the country and recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Alaska and D.C., the herb remains illegal on a federal level. Marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, a classification reserved for drugs like heroin and cocaine, the most dangerous drugs that have the highest risks as well as no medicinal benefits. This makes it illegal on a federal level, which means that banks do not want to deal with marijuana related companies. Unfortunately, due this situation, cannabis dispensaries are forced to operate as cash businesses. This billion dollar industry (operating in cash, since business owners don’t have access to banks) has become a prime target for robbery. Cannabis dispensaries in particular have been getting hit hard.
Violent Incidents Involving Cannabis Dispensaries
A 24-year-old security guard named Travis Mason, who had a wife and 3 children, was shot and killed in Denver, Colorado on his job protecting the Green Heart marijuana dispensary. Another guard in San Bernardino was also shot and injured. The thieves didn’t actually get away with any money in that particular circumstance. They are still at large and a $12,000 reward is offered for their capture. A dispensary owner in Walnut Park, Los Angeles, survived an attempted robbery that resulted in a shootout last month. Another dispensary owner, Derek Worden, survived being shot outside his shop during an attempted robbery last November. $100,000 is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of suspects who were involved in that incident.
In these cases, the thieves got away after causing injuries with no money but this isn’t always the case. Thieves got away with $100,000 during a robbery in Seattle in 2015 and robberies like this occur frequently, often leading to fatal consequences.
The Growing Marijuana Industry
Cannabis is a billion industry. California, Nevada and 6 other states are voting on whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults this November. Marijuana Business Daily predicts that legal marijuana will become an 8 billion dollar industry by 2018. This doesn’t even include the medical marijuana industry, which also continues to grow every year.
No Safe Solution
Without access to electronic banking options, the danger faced by businesses is enormous. Democratic-sponsored legislation was developed which would have allowed cannabis dispensaries to offer plastic and electronic options instead of cash but this was blocked by the House Republicans. Until banks can legally deal with the cannabis industry, there is no safe solution offered.
The DEA has released a statement saying that they are reviewing the marijuana classification at this time and that using the advice of the FDA, they may consider rescheduling the herb. Declassifying it so that it ranks in the same category as cigarettes and alcohol, is another option. Since many studies have found it to be much healthier and safer than both cigarettes and alcohol and it would prevent the takeover by pharmaceutical companies, many advocates are pushing for declassification. Either way, any sort of improvement on the current laws would help the cannabis industry, whose workers, especially those at cannabis dispensaries, are at risk every day.