The state’s largest pharmacy chain at 21 locations, LivWell, has a handful of supplies around the state that have become targets of theft, LivWell’s retail and security chief James Bauer said during a Oct. 28 discussion on banking services for the marijuana industry.
At a call for support for US Representative Ed Perlmutters Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, Bauer went into detail about several burglary attempts at LivWell companies. The situations included “criminals driving stolen vehicles into our buildings several times,” Bauer said, as well as drilling holes in the tops of LivWell buildings or staging lookouts and escape points while suspects tried to break into LivWell dispensaries. and cultivations with the koben and sledge hammers.
According to Bauer, the majority of these trials by 2020 were successful. While LivWell has seen three successful burglaries this year, there have been others that were prevented – such as an incident on October 11 in which five people tried to break into a pharmacy by shutting off the power. The suspects eventually left, but not without first damaging doors and windows.
LivWell lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars due to these burglaries” by 2020, Bauer said, and as a result has invested millions of dollars in security. The company now has over 2,500 security cameras and more than forty security guards, some of whom are paid to sit in parking lots at LivWell locations overnight to deter potential criminals. LivWell employees are also trained to handle emergencies “we know they will eventually have to face,” added Bauer, who is a military veteran.
“[We have] barriers to prevent vehicles, high-quality locks and doors and reinforced walls and doors, “he said.” Some of these security measures I would have expected to see while deployed in Afghanistan, not while running a retail business in downtown Denver, Colorado . ”
Because marijuana is still federally banned, the majority of commercial pot companies are denied banking services and forced to operate in cash; this creates a path for burglary and robbery. According to an annual marijuana exposure report prepared by Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, burglary related to commercial marijuana increased from 122 in 2019 to 175 in 2020.
But criminals are not just looking for cash in these crimes. Marijuana itself is getting a good price on the black market, especially in states where the plant is still illegal.
“If you’re in the cannabis industry, you’ll always be a target,” concluded Bauer, whose business was recently acquired by Chicago-based PharmaCanna Inc. in a major trade in Colorado cannabis.
Denver Excise and Licenses has approved new safety and storage rules for marijuana companies in hopes of reducing the crime rate after work, but marijuana business owners across the country believe easier bank access would enable them to operate more securely. Large banks, however, have refrained from serving state-legal pot companies for fear of federal retaliation, and the credit unions and banks serving the marijuana industry charge high fees for the risks accrued.
Perlmutter’s SAFE Banking Act, a piece of legislation he has been pushing for since 2013, would allow banks and financial service providers to take on marijuana accounts without being hit by federal drug charges, allowing pot business owners to obtain bank accounts to accept debit and credit cards , as well as business loans and lines of credit. The bill passed Parliament five times from 2019 to 2021, but a major push for federal legalization has moved the SAFE Banking Act to the sidelines in the Senate, where it is yet to be put to the vote.
Issues of social justice, such as compensation to communities affected by the war on drugs, are now driving the conversation in the Senate, with powerful Democratic senators like Cory Booker and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pushing forms of more aggressive pot legislation with provisions on social justice. Booker and Schumer have stated that if marijuana banks were approved, it could compromise national legalization efforts by putting one foot in with trade but keeping the other foot out with social justice.
“If we drop this bill, it will make it much harder and take longer to adopt a comprehensive reform,” Schumer said in a podcast interview with Psychoactive. “We certainly want provisions similar to the SAFE Banking Act in our bill. But getting more moderate people – getting some Republicans, to get the financial sector behind a comprehensive bill – is the way to go. That’s the right thing to do. ”
Perlmutter missed the call on October 28 to attend a last-minute congress, but he has been busy with his Twitter account this week, SAFE Banking is pushing the bill.
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