Should Budtenders Be Allowed to Carry Guns?
Options for keeping cannabis dispensaries - and its workers and customers - safe.
Because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, using personal protection in the form of firearms really isn’t an option.
Since cash-seeking criminals across the United States keep trying to rob cannabis dispensaries with brute force, budtenders are now reportedly packing heat to show them what’s what if they try any funny business in their neck of the woods.
One dispensary worker in Oklahoma recently shot and killed an armed robber. These budtenders aren’t messing around. They believe that if someone walks into their dispensary flashing a piece, “you have every right to shoot them dead.”
Keeping Dispensaries Safe
Although there’s been a lot of media coverage over the past few weeks about armed robberies in Oklahoma and Oregon, this crime is a problem in every state where weed has gone legal. It’s not that marijuana dispensaries attract this kind of bad mojo. It’s just that they operate in a way that makes them a hard target. Although these businesses are legitimate in the eyes of the state, they are still working on a mostly cash basis. There could be unspeakable amounts of cash in these establishments on any given day, making them an excellent mark for desperate criminals.
Some cannabis advocates argue that the propensity for violence in pot dispensaries is why Congress should get behind the SAFE Banking Act. This bill, which the House has already approved, would allow banks to do business with the cannabis industry without fear of federal money laundering charges. Yet, it’s not like most financial institutions are avoiding the cannabis market altogether. This is mostly a myth, “From coast to coast, MRBs (marijuana related businesses) are banking with reputable institutions. This is not a crisis,” according to a report from Forbes.
However, there’s still lots of cash flowing regularly into dispensaries – making them a dangerous place to work. So, should budtenders be allowed to carry firearms to level the playing field? Many say yes, it’s a worker’s right to defend themselves. “It’s not a chance of if, but when, it’s going to happen,” said one of the owners of the dispensary Highest Choice. Others don’t believe guns are the answer. “I don’t need to talk about the gun, especially since my friend died from a gun,” said Jina Yoo, owner of Cured Green. “Guns are the most hateful things.”
Most Americans probably wouldn’t argue that cannabis employees should have the right to protect themselves against dangerous criminals. But because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, using personal protection in the form of firearms really isn’t an option. Budtenders in legal cannabis states who shoot armed stick-up men in self-defense can still face charges.
That’s what the dispensary worker from Oklahoma must worry about. “That employee could end up facing prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Oklahoma,” reports the website Bearing Arms.
There’s a bill in Congress right now called the GRAM Act that aims to change that.
The proposal would offer some protections to cannabis users who defend themselves during a robbery. It would also safeguard gun owners who use marijuana in legal states. But until it passes, which is super unlikely, any cannabis industry employee who shoots an armed thief could be sent to prison for manslaughter or murder. It hardly seems right, but this is just one of the many bizarre grey areas that exist between state-legal cannabis markets and the federal government.
Of course, ending marijuana prohibition nationwide and making it part of legitimate commerce, just like alcohol and tobacco, would also give cannabis industry workers more rights when it comes to defending themselves against armed robbers. For now, though, budtenders fighting to stay alive in the midst of a holdup will almost certainly feel the brunt of the heat once the gun smoke clears.