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DEA Order Could Endanger California Medical Marijuana Providers

A recent order sent out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency could put many California dispensary operators and employees in danger.

The DEA issued an order to all security and armored car companies to stop servicing marijuana dispensaries. The order applies everywhere, regardless of the legality of medical or recreational pot, but it has special importance in California.

The risks involved in marijuana transportation are often especially high there, and professional security has become an established part of doing business as a marijuana seller. But now the feds have put the squeeze on security firms and dispensaries will lose that layer of protection.

Past Effects of Federal Law Enforcement

This isn’t the first time federal law enforcement has put the vice to an industry working with legal pot purveyors. In 2011, banks and credit card companies were pressured out of doing business with dispensaries.

That action forced dispensaries to pay their bills in cash, which in turn forced them to rely on armored car deliveries and additional security. That increased the risk of robbery, especially in California.

“In 2011 they closed our bank accounts, which forced us to handle and store cash on-site,” Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Oakland’s Harborside Healthcare dispensary, said in a press release. “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 move comes as states and some national lawmakers put increasing pressure on the Obama administration to clarify its stance on legalized marijuana. Pot remains illegal at the federal level, and the federal government retains the power to crack down on producers, sellers and even users, regardless of state laws.Marijuana-plants (2)

Clarification on Federal Marijuana Standings

The U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the subject Sept. 10, and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has invited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to attend. Holder promised in February that he would explain the administration’s position “relatively soon,” but no such statement has been forthcoming.

In the meantime, Obama and his administration have given conflicting signals, saying in public that marijuana enforcement isn’t a priority while quietly arresting hosts of dispensary owners and growers across the country. The closest thing to a coherent message seems to be, “We don’t care if you smoke pot but we’ll do everything we can to stop you.”

“The president says he has bigger fish to fry than go after individual users, but at nearly every step, his administration has tried to make it so those users are unable to purchase marijuana through safe and regulated means,” Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a pro-pot policy group, told the Huffington Post.

About Matt Brooks

Based in San Francisco, Matt is a journalist who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than five years. He provides regular news coverage on marijuanaandthelaw.com and californiamarijuanamarket.com.

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