Kay Smythe - Santa Monica



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Saturday, March 16

Veterans In Colorado Are Using Unique Skills To Protect Cannabis Crops

In a recent article from the New York Times, it was found that war veterans are now using their military training to protect the booming legal marijuana industry.

Described as a vocation with purpose, cannabis security is split between two social groups: those on their way to police departments and law school, and retired US veterans looking to re-assimilate into society.

Why Are Cannabis Growers Under Attack?

Though no one is immune to theft, Colorado’s cannabis industry are especially vulnerable. At the time of publication, there were 978 marijuana shop licenses, and 1,393 marijuana grow licenses.

As cannabis is still illegal under federal law, many banks won’t work with businesses in the trade. This forces establishments to deal only in cash, and there are mountains of it.

It is also one of the more lucrative products for criminals. A pound of cannabis worth $2000 in Colorado, is worth anywhere between $4000 – $6000 in neighboring states. The black market trade in cannabis is still booming in many US cities. It is also untraceable, and easily sold on Craigslist or the street.

Cannabis Businesses Are Being Targeted By Organized Groups

In southern Colorado, one case of potential theft included four men in tactical gear carrying AR-15 rifles through a field. The security team was made up of former Marine snipers wearing night-vision goggles, and managed to scare the intruders away with warning shots.

192 burglaries have occurred in Denver cannabis shops in 2015. However, many businesses do not report the crimes committed against them. This is due to concerns of being seen as a target, or attracting attention from inspectors.

The criminals have netted anything from a few pot-laced drinks to $250,000 in plants. In June 2016, the worst happened.

Two Armed Men Entered A Pot Shop In Aurora

Aurora is a suburb of Denver. The men killed a guard, Travis Mason, in what the police later called a botched robbery. Mr. Mason was 24-years-old, a former Marine, and father of three. He is the first cannabis employee to die on the job in Colorado.

The incident saw a wave of shops looking to recruit armed guards. This is where the Iron Protection Group came in.

Founded in 2014 by former Marines that had served in Afghanistan, the organization is designed for veterans left floating in the real world after warfare:

“In some ways, it was a natural marriage, formalizing a relationship forged in Vietnam, where marijuana became a balm for soldiers seeking to calm the demons of deployment.”

This is how Julie Turkewitz, NY Times journalist, describes the new wave of military members in the marijuana industry.

The pay for the soldiers starts at $12 an hour, or $25,000 a year. In reality, the average salary is more like $38,000 a year, according to co-owner Hunter Garth.

With many veterans turning to medical marijuana as a safe and reliable medication to quell the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, occupations like the police force are not an option.


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