Regardless of the job one holds in the marijuana industry, business owners and employees in legal states still face federal prosecution each day they report to work. The glass house illusion surrounding the newly legalized pot market is that state laws provide protection, while the truth is there is nothing stopping the Drug Enforcement Administration from swooping in and putting everyone, right down to the last budtender, in federal prison.
Although marijuana has obtained legal status for both recreational and medicinal purposes in over half of the United States, the federal government still maintains that the herb is a dangerous drug, in the same ranks as heroin, and refuses to remove it from its current Schedule I classification. By now, most people understand this means the feds can walk into any marijuana-related business and put the hammer down, but what some people are still unaware of is exactly how deep the steel can swing.
Attorney Andrew Freedman, who receives his salary from the taxes collected from legal marijuana, says Uncle Sam and his cult of cannabis-hating cronies could step into his office at any time and prosecute him for drug trafficking — even though he never actually handles marijuana. “I’m in murky territory every day,” he told USA Today.
Former police officers and military veterans working as armed guards for the marijuana industry are at an even greater risk for a federal shakedown, simply because the federal laws associated with drug-trafficking are more severe for individuals in the possession of guns and money. Most security professionals agree the risk of being involved in legal cannabis is still safer than their previous careers. Yet, they maintain that respecting the reality of the situation and the possibility of jail is crucial to their longevity.
“If you touch the product, then you’re at risk for federal prosecution,” said Michael Jerome, with the Blue Line Protection Group, an armed security transport service for the Colorado cannabis market. “That’s why we’re trying to make it safe and legitimate and responsible, so we can respect the wishes of the voters of the state of Colorado and keep the federal government out of it.”
Under federal law, the entire legal cannabis industry could be shut down today if prosecutors felt confident enough to swing. However, the Justice Department announced earlier this year that it would not interfere with the business of legal marijuana, as long as states strictly enforced regulations.
Unfortunately, good faith bullshit from Washington D.C. is not a sufficient enough safety net for marijuana advocates like attorney Rob Corry, who recently filed a lawsuit against Colorado over claims that pot businesses are incriminating themselves by paying taxes.
“There can be no possible scenario where a person paying said marijuana-specific taxes can also be in full compliance with federal law, related to the activities upon which the taxes are paid,” reads the lawsuit.
One thing is certain, the risks associated with doing business in a legal statewide marijuana market are not going away until the federal government stops sandbagging the issue and finally repeals prohibition.