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Feds tell security, armored car companies not to serve cannabis industry

armored car policyBy Gaynell Rogers

WCL News — On the heels of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s endorsement of medical cannabis and Eric Holder’s speech advocating Drug War reform, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency  informed US security and armored car services on Aug. 22, 2013, that they can no longer render services to state-legal cannabis providers. The announcement poses grave risks to medical cannabis patients and the general public alike, according to experts in the field.

“We need to provide financial institutions certainty they can make their own business decisions related to legal, financial transactions without fear of regulatory penalties,” said Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. He cited “public safety, crime and lost tax revenue”  concerns in an Aug. 29 statement. “Currently, under federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses operating legally according to state law are prevented from maintaining bank accounts and accessing financial products like any other business such as accepting credit cards, depositing revenues, or writing checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. They are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises, inviting crime such as robbery and tax evasion, only adding to the burden of setting up a legitimate small business.”

According to the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA), California and Colorado dispensaries have so far been targeted. However, they have decided not to release their individual identities, due to security concerns. Aaron Smith, NCIA’s executive director, said, “This reckless and shameful policy not only puts the lives of dispensary operators and patients at risk, it threatens the safety of thousands of employees, contractors, and state officials who receive payments from our industry every day.”

Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center, the country’s largest model cannabis dispensary, said, “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.

“The reduction in security caused by this federal action endangers not only our patients and staff, it endangers the entire public—including state and city employees. It is long past time for the President and Congress to rein in out-of-control federal drug warriors, and respect the voters of California and other states that have already made the kind of reforms recently advocated by Attorney General Holder. The Obama administration should take action to make distribution of cannabis safer, not more dangerous.”

Smith added that, “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. They want the lives of state-licensed providers endangered. This is a major threat to public safety intentionally engineered by the administration.”

The new move by the Obama administration is especially significant in light of already existing federal policy which makes it nearly impossible for dispensaries or other medical marijuana collectives to open bank accounts. The Bank Secrecy Act, 31 USC sec. 5311, already requires banks to report any evidence that account holders may be laundering money or depositing income from the trafficking of controlled substances, which under federal law includes cannabis.

“As well as making the medical marijuana community more vulnerable to robberies, this policy is clearly intended to streamline government theft,” suggested Drug War critic Chris Conrad. “Forcing dispensaries to use cash only, then forbidding the armored vehicle industry to move cash off-site guarantees that law enforcement raids can find and seize as much cash as possible under civil asset forfeiture laws.” — West Coast Leaf News Service

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