Colorado marijuana shops turn to combat veterans for protection

by: Graham Johnson Updated:

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DENVER - At Medicine Man Denver, a retail and medical marijuana store, the first people customers meet are combat veterans like Keith Wood.

After serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, he now works for Blue Line Protection Group.

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It's a new company working with a new industry: Marijuana. 

"We hire veterans from the special ops community," Wood said.

These guards have guns, and they know how to use them.

"If something were to pop off your average security guard would probably just run because one, he's a young guy that doesn't know what's going on, or he's seventy70 years old with a flashlight," Wood said. "So we're here to take care of everything."

When Medicine Man was only a medical marijuana dispensary, all the patients had state registry cards and were in the computer system.

Back then, owners didn't see a need to have guards armed.

"When January first was coming about we didn't know what to expect," said Elan Nelson of Medicine Man Denver, referring to the day recreational marijuana sales began in Colorado.

Lines have been long.

"We're dealing with a lot more customers," Nelson said.

Keith Wood says he's not worried about customers, but drug cartels and other criminals.

Because federally regulated banks often don't work with pot businesses, many are all cash.

Stacks of bills and crops of weed are big targets. 

"We're here for the outside threat," Wood said. 

Security cameras are everywhere in the store and the grow rooms in back.

State laws in both Colorado and Washington set security standards for the pot industry.

In Washington, where retail pot sales will begin later this year, the state specifies minimum camera resolution, requires cameras at every door and mandates video be kept for 45 days.

In Denver, police now have an expanded role.

When retail sales began, officers stepped up patrols around the stores.

And a Denver detective is now assigned to the industry.

At Evergreen Apothecary, co-owner Tim Cullen says an officer stopped by to reach out.

"We haven't needed to call the police but I have his cellphone number if we do," he said.

His shop also has an armed security guard.

Across town, 3D Cannabis Center does not.

The director of security says he does have laser motion sensors and guard dogs at night but hasn't had to kick a single person out.

It's a mellow start for a new industry, that remains prepared for unique threats.

 

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