Colorado pot shops are being terrorized by gangs of armed robbers. Although marijuana sales are legal in Colorado, they are still banned by Congress. The federal ban has forced many shops to keep large amounts of cash on hand, as banks are refusing their deposits. This has not escaped the notice of criminals, who are robbing the stores to gain piles of cash.
Denver district attorney Mitch Morrissey said it is "only a matter of time before someone gets shot." As he explains, convenience stores and gas stations usually have less than $100 on hand. Criminals who target marijuana dispensaries could "get $300,000 on a good day."
Although most shops have increased their security measures, the thieves simply get more creative. As reported by NBC News, the gangs have dug tunnels under shops, driven through storefronts, and broken chains and locks off the doors.
Michael Elliot, with the Marijuana Industry Group, said "everyone in the industry is having nightmares." Weeks after Colorado legalized marijuana, a gang of armed robbers targeted at lest eight pot shops. The gangs are armed and often restrain employees at gunpoint while they pillage the cash.
In Denver alone, there are more than 300 companies that distribute marijuana and marijuana related products. In the last two years, those companies have recorded approximately 324 burglaries and robberies. The numbers include companies that supplied medical marijuana before the laws changed.
According to the latest data, robberies and burglaries in Denver have increased close to 50 percent in the last five years. The marked increase is being blamed on little or no access to banking. Although the issue persists, the Obama administration has announced plans to revise banking regulations.
The revisions will allow banks to provide services to companies manufacturing and selling marijuana, without legal repercussions. The revisions are expected to help many businesses. However, they may take a while to implement.
Jonathan Salfeld, of Local Product of Colorado, said his pot shop was broken into twice. He said he believes every shop in town "has been robbed at least once." Salfeld said the constant threat "leaves you feeling less than safe."
In response to the increased threat, several security companies have offered their services to marijuana dispensaries.
Blue Line Protection Group employs 40 guards. Owner Ted Daniels is a US Army veteran and a retired police officer. He said most of his men have combat experience and many were involved in special ops. He said "if you're going to fight the best... you better have the best."
Although security services are available, they can run close to $15,000 per month. Some Colorado pot shop owners do not have a choice. Although their businesses are lucrative, criminals are dipping into a large portion of their profits and threatening their lives.