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Armored Cars and Facial Recognition: Meet the Startups Securing California’s Pot Industry

Investment in the Cannabis Industry Grows
Photo by Getty Images

As long as the cannabis industry continues to grow, and as long as the feds and banking sector prohibit the scads of weed money from participating in normal banking operations, a couple of California companies are perfectly happy moving the dough around in their armored cars.

In addition to the banking morass forcing the industry to operate entirely in cash, there are also plants, products and equipment to move.

“We’re either going to triple or quadruple in size in 2018,” said Todd Kleperis, CEO of HARDCAR Security, referring to the fact that recreational weed sales will begin in California on January 1.

Kleperis runs the Palm Springs-based company with Jeff Breier, both former security tech professionals. He said they started small in late 2015 and now have eight full-time and 20 part-time employees, most of whom will transition to full-time soon and majority of whom are military veterans.

According to the Desert Sun, Kleperis said the company has 25 regular clients, most in Northern California, for whom his drivers move cannabis products from growers and manufacturers to dispensaries in Southern California.

And now, others are getting in on the action.

Terry Blevins, a former cop and security professional, saw the same opportunity in Santa Monica, California, where he opened Armaplex, which provides transportation, on-site security and consulting services.

“I knew it was going to be a highly regulated industry,” Blevins said. “I knew that a lot of the people who have been in the industry for decades may not have the security experience to secure their own product and cash, so they’re going to be turning to people like me.”

Blevins routinely speaks at industry conferences about security issues, as well as for LEAP, the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

HARDCAR Security is one of the many cannabis companies prioritizing veteran hiring. For Kleperis, an Army veteran, it’s all about the skills.

“Guys in the military know what the hell they’re doing when it comes to getting things done,” he said. “They know, for instance, how to drive through a hostile environment. Most of them are security-conscious because they have to be.”

Kelperis said HARDCAR’s driver and guard jobs pay about $25 to $30 per hour.

“We think vets are uniquely poised to thrive in this industry,” Seth Smith, communications director for the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, a vet-owned MMJ collective, told the Desert Sun.

Because of the nature of what their loads, these budding security companies are also being denied services from the federal Small Business Administration.

But that doesn’t seem to bother them.

“We plan on dominating,” Kleperis said. “Right now, we’re the largest in our space for transportation and cash and logistics, and by the end of 2018, we’re going to have a very solid footprint, all based here in the desert.”

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