From Fighting Terrorists in Syria to Delivering Sativa in Michigan

Michigan law requires "secure transport" of marijuana. Combat veterans are a perfect fit.
From Fighting Terrorists in Syria to Delivering Sativa in Michigan
Image credit: AFP Contributor | Getty Images
Guest Writer
President of Griffin Secure Transport
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

As Tom shifts the weight of his M4 rifle and finishes reporting in his position he jokes with Ryan about how their new civilian gear works so much better than their Vietnam-era Marine Corps issued radios. They hit a pothole on the Michigan road but the 1,000 pounds of marihuana in the back doesn’t mind, so they don’t mind.

They arrive to their destination and meet with the recipients of their cargo in a hard-wired defensive posture. The difference in the way the clean-cut secure transporters and Rastafarian dispensary employees spent their 20’s is palpable but, in a strange twist of regulatory fate, their life paths intertwined. Twelve months earlier Tom and Ryan were active duty Marines in full battle rattle in Syria fighting terrorists. Today, Tom and Ryan are civilians wearing covert armor spearheading a new and booming industry.

Let’s rewind -- how did two Marines go from fighting terror in Syria to delivering weed in Michigan? Folks in the military have a lot of down time. During that down time everything under the sun is debated ad nauseam, but the lion’s share of the conversation is comprised of money, women and how fucked up you plan to get that weekend. In September of 2016 Michigan’s governor signed three bills establishing the state's regulatory framework for the sale of medical marihuana (editor's note: that's how it's spelled in Michigan law). Rarely does regulation bolster business but the new Michigan Marihuana Facilities and Licensing Agency (MMFLA) intentionally created a new sector of the industry. Michigan joined the norm amongst states with legal marihuana by mandating that any movement of marihuana through public roadways must be handled by a third-party secure transporter. With the need for security and the Michigan market estimated at near a billion dollars, in comes the otherwise unassociated military crowd. The new regulation summarily satisfies two of the three favorite Marine conversations -- talk of money and inebriating substances.

Related: Many Licensed California Marijuana Growers Face Regulatory Roadblocks Getting Their Harvest to Market

As the wars drew down and the Department of Defense became a social change battleground, I knew my time in uniform was coming to an end. Through the grapevine news of the new Michigan Marihuana regulations caught my attention. The attractiveness of filling the regulatory requirement was twofold -- first, the traditional cannabis personality is generally mutually exclusive with being highly trained in the administration of violence but the demand nevertheless exists. Second, my established ties in the veteran community would solve any staffing problems and provide an opportunity for vets to monetize their skill sets. As I’d reached the military requisite 70 percent solution, I leveraged my contacts and put together a team of a lead marihuana attorney, a logistics expert and an experienced operations officer. Together, we plan to plant our flag in this new regulatory requirement.

The rise in medical marihuana secure transport requirements could not have come at a better time for the veteran community.  Typically, small arms proficiency, experience with team tactics and defensive maneuvers don’t translate into private-sector jobs. The Nation’s longest wars are coming to an end but veteran employment programs often struggle with fitting a square peg of combat experience into a round hole of cubicles and sensitivity training. However, secure transportation calls for a near-perfect eclipse of the average combat arms Service Member’s training. From a state’s perspective, enacting secure transport regulation brings transparency and an easy bottleneck for tracking transactions. From our perspective, veterans come from a self-selecting populace of the personality and professionalism we want with nearly all of our desired training complete.

Related: 7 Hottest Jobs in the Cannabis Industry Right Now

What does the future hold? Currently, a minority of states in the Union outlaw medical marihuana and the trend is conclusively heading toward legalization. The marihuana market is expected to grow to more than $13 billion annually by 2020. Michigan currently has the second most medical marihuana cardholders in the Union and more cardholders than all of Canada. Further, recreational use is on Michigan’s ballot in November 2018.

When industry establishes its rhythm we forecast standard flat rate containers similar to USPS’s flat rate shipping offerings. Further, we forecast growers will eventually foot the delivery bill. Economy of scale caters to the supply side as dispensaries will likely place small, sporadic orders to fill their specific inventory needs. Consolidated, consistent deliveries from a grow operation will lower the cost of transportation allowing lean grow operations to out-price the competition. Additionally, growers are well positioned to offer shipping incentives contingent upon dispensary purchase quantity. If a certain dollar amount is purchased or contracted to over time shipping may be used as a bargaining chip. However, for the time-being there are no true “norms” here in Michigan, a fact we are embracing as we aim to discreetly facilitate our customers’ goals of scalability, brand recognition and longevity in a truly collaborative, flexible manner.

The green wave is coming regardless of personal feelings on the issue. At Griffin Secure Transport we saw an opportunity for those who could fill the transportation requirement and were frustrated with mere lip service being paid to veterans. We drew an easy line between the two and now offer a premier transportation solution that, uniquely, services the entire State of Michigan.

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