America’s state-legal cannabis industry has achieved quite a lot in a little over a decade. Generating billions of dollars in revenue, it has created hundreds of thousands of new job opportunities and provided states with millions in tax revenue. The industry is projected to grow even larger as it matures and more states join; one group of people who are poised to benefit from the cannabis legalization boom are military veterans.
Cannabis’ federal classification as a Schedule I regulated substance has prevented banks and credit card processors from working with businesses in the cannabis space. This has forced these companies to require cash-only payments, meaning they usually have large amounts of money on hand. Additionally, cannabis itself is a valuable commodity with near-constant demand, and offloading it in the black market is fairly easy for those who know their way around. As such, cannabis retailers and dispensaries have become prime targets for burglars and robbers.
Armed guards are quickly becoming a necessity for any cannabis business with reasonable turnover, and veterans with firearms training are taking up the mantle. Paul Ballenger, a Marine veteran and an Army reservist, is the chief executive officer of Invicta Solutions, which has approximately 400 armed guards stationed in five states. His company provides guards for shopping malls, religious institutions and cannabis companies, among others. With the wave of cannabis reform steadily sweeping across the country, Ballenger’s goal is to have guards stationed in New York, New Jersey and Florida by the end of the year as these key states launch their markets.
In Fresno, California, Operational Security Solutions (“OSS”) hires about 100 armed guards, a lot of them veterans, for cannabis-related businesses. Ryan Hale, the company’s chief sales officer, says OSS has a strict no-drugs policy, stating that marijuana and guns should not mix. Since cannabis businesses are such prime targets, often with lots of cash on site and plenty of cannabis with high resale value on the black market, the guards need to be vigilant and “100% cognizant.”
Veterans often have a hard time finding work after coming back home, with more than half of them finding it difficult to utilize their military skills in a civilian setting. With the cannabis industry poised to see major growth, especially after weathering the coronavirus pandemic like a champ, plenty of vets may finally be able to land employment. Even if lawmakers finally pass cannabis banking legislation allowing financial institutions to work with cannabis businesses, the precious product they sell will need protection.
Cannabis industry players such as Chalice Brands Ltd. (CSE: CHAL) (OTCQB: CHALF), which have a dominant role in the markets where they operate, certainly require armed security guards to protect employees, cash and stock at their different locations.
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