Thursday, September 08, 2016

Veterans finding work and a sense of place as security for Colorado's legal marijuana business

Veteran Chris Bowyer guards a grow.
(NYT photo by Ryan David Brown)
A booming business in Colorado is connecting military veterans with jobs protecting legal marijuana businesses, Julie Turkewitz reports for The New York Times. More than 200 young veterans have taken jobs as security for Colorado's cannabis industry—legal in the state since 2014, but not under federal law. "They spend their days and nights in urban marijuana shops and suburban warehouses and on rural farms, warding off the burglars who have become hallmarks of this cash-heavy, high-value business."

"For some, a cannabis security job is a way station toward the police department or law school," Turkewitz writes. "For others, though, it is a vocation with purpose, a union of two outsider groups leaning on each other in a nation uncertain about how to accept them."

The cannabis handles lots of cash "because the federal government considers marijuana illegal" and many banks won’t work with producers and buyers, Turkewitz writes. With 978 marijuana-shop licenses and 1,393 growing licenses in Colorado. that's a lot of untraceable cash floating around. Making all that cash more enticing to criminals is that "a pound of marijuana worth $2,000 in Colorado can be sold for $4,000 or $6,000 across state lines."

Another problem is that some businesses fail to report break-ins, for fear that it will make them easy targets for criminals and attract the attention of inspectors looking for violations, Turkewitz writes. While pay the isn't the draw—jobs typically starts at $12 an hour, with an average yearly salary of $38,000—it's the camaraderie, the feeling that the former soldiers are back working in a unit to offer protection. Veteran Chris Bowyer told Turkewitz, "This is my therapy. This is what we did in the military.” (Read more)

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