A deadly attack on a security guard at a pot dispensary in Aurora, Denver has raised concerns about security requirements in the state that has legalized recreational and medical marijuana.
Travis Mason, 24, was killed when two armed men walked into the Green Heart dispensary he was guarding, shooting him multiple times in an attempted robbery. The former Marine left behind a wife and three kids. Police have not yet made any arrests.
In the wake of this tragedy, the industry is now reviewing whether surveillance cameras and armed guards are enough, reports the Washington Post. The killing clearly indicates a lack of overall security in the marijuana business. Mason’s death is the first on-the-job incident at a licensed pot shop.
The security requirements for marijuana shops were created to keep marijuana off the black market, not to protect those selling it.
Industry analysts have compared cannabis dispensaries to jewelry shops hawking untraceable diamonds: there are many dangers and the products are often uninsured, guarded by people on a minimum wage.
There is little information on whether weed businesses are more susceptible to crime, more so because those in the industry are reluctant to go public regarding make crimes against them. Michael Jerome, a spokesperson for Blue Line Protection Group, a security agency serving marijuana businesses across several states, said, “You’re just as likely to get an armed robbery at a bank or a convenience store or anywhere else where there is cash.” He adds, “But in this industry, there is a natural tendency to resist uniformed security that looks like a police officer. And when they’re robbed, they keep quiet about it to avoid becoming targets.”
Security requirements for states with regulated marijuana shops have similar guidelines: entries and exits have to be on camera, with enough clarity to identify people.
Noah Stakes, CEO for CannaGuard, a company that has installed security systems in over 250 cannabis shops, said, “They’re really just to watch plants and keep people from selling to 12-year-olds. They don’t provide real security.”
The Department of Public Safety in Colorado tried to count crimes against marijuana businesses and found it impossible. They did find that Denver, which has also tried to count cannabis shop-related crimes, did not show a significant increase in robberies.
Despite this, people working with marijuana are concerned for their safety and well-being. For one thing, the industry has had difficulty getting access to banking services, forcing many shops to require cash-only payments.
A pending bill in the US Senate seeks to help solve the problem the marijuana industry is having with banking services. The bill, which is pending action in the House, prohibits the use of federal money to fine a bank or financial institution doing business with a cannabis shop complying with state laws.
In Denver, some marijuana workers are anxious about going to work. “People were a little on edge,” Colin Patrick, general manager at Euflora Recreational Meds in Aurora, said. The company has put up $3,000 to match federal and city rewards on Mason’s killers.
As of now, employee safety is the responsibility of shop owners, not the state. Patrick remarked that marijuana regulators are more concerned about weed itself than the people behind it.