DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign a bill which could create more banking options for the marijuana industry.
However, marijuana insiders are convinced the federal government, which regulates banking, will not allow a “cannabis co-op” to provide basic banking services like a checking account.
“HB-1398 is likely not a solution to the banking problem,” said Michael Elliott, Director of the Marijuana Industry Group.
He says without the ability to put money in the bank the marijuana industry is often a cash-only business. The abundance of cash is making marijuana businesses a target for criminals.
So, many dispensaries are going to extreme measures to protect their investments by hiring security firms that specialize in protecting marijuana.
From its “war room” in an office tower in Wheat Ridge, Canna Security America monitors surveillance video and alarm systems from marijuana businesses all over Colorado.
CEO Dan Williams says his business took hold when national security firms like ADT decided to bow out of protecting pot.
“We are happy to take that business,” Williams said.
His company strictly specializes in the cannabis industry. He also helped to write regulations which make high tech security systems mandatory for licensed marijuana businesses.
“You want this to be such a high deterrence that nobody would bother,” said Williams.
He says most criminals who try to steal from marijuana businesses are “unsophisticated.”
According to Denver Police there have been 49 burglaries and one robbery at marijuana businesses in the first four months of 2014.
Through his security systems, Williams says he’s helped police officers catch a number of teams of thieves, including a group of teenagers that smashed a stolen car through the doors of a grow house.
“We’ve seen people cutting holes in the roof and kind of belaying down like a ‘Mission Impossible’ routine,” said Williams.
He says often crooks get in, but can’t get back out.
“They are trapped in their own cage.”
But sometimes the thieves win. Last September, a pair of masked men walked off with $250,000 worth of plants from a grow house and are still on the run.
Some people in the industry are turning to armed guards to transport plants, check IDs and keep an eye on the cash.
“If you ask me to grow marijuana, I wouldn’t know the first thing,” said Ted Daniels of Blue Line Security. “But I know how to protect it.”
Daniels says he can’t hire guards fast enough to provide armed protection for dispensaries filled with cash. He says he focuses on hiring former military and law enforcement to provide a skilled security force.
“A guy comes in to a dispensary with a gun and shoots two or three people, a panic button is not going to stop that. Cameras are not going to stop that and security doors aren’t going to stop that,” said Daniels.
“We are all having nightmares about this issue,” said Elliott.
He says it will take someone getting shot before Congress finds a fix for the banking issue.
“I say someone getting killed here in Colorado, we haven’t had that happen yet. But in California it has happened. People have been kidnapped and tortured over this issue,” he said.