ED KASHI

The danger surrounding the new legal pot industry in Colorado is a growing issue.  Security efforts are being made to protect these companies who are left without government support or protection due to conflicting state and federal laws.  This story looks at pot culture and the challenge of security around the newly legalized recreational & medical marijuana industry in the state of Colorado.

As Colorado leads the United States into uncharted territory by legalizing marijuana sales and creating laws as of January 1, 2014 that defy the federal statutes against pot, this state has become a test case for the nation. Even before the new law came into effect, burglaries and break-ins to medical pot dispensaries and grow houses were an issue. However, since the law was passed the problem has significantly worsened. This is a result of the lack of coordination between state and federal banking laws, which makes these legal businesses unable to deposit their cash in a bank, leaving them exposed as easy targets for robbery.

A worker cures marijuana in racks at the Medicine Man marijuana dispensary and grow house in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

A worker cures marijuana in racks at the Medicine Man marijuana dispensary and grow house in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Workers tend to cannabis plants at the Medicine Man marijuana grow house in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Workers tend to cannabis plants at the Medicine Man marijuana grow house in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Workers clip marijuana in The Haven dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

Workers clip marijuana in The Haven dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A security guard stands watch at the entrance of La Conte's Clone Bar & Dispensary, in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

A security guard stands watch at the entrance of La Conte’s Clone Bar & Dispensary, in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Patrons wait to buy pot at Medicine Man dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Patrons wait to buy pot at Medicine Man dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

A security guard for Blue Line Protection Group,  which specializes in protection of the marijuana industry, stands watch at the entrance of the Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

A security guard for Blue Line Protection Group, which specializes in protection of the marijuana industry, stands watch at the entrance of the Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

An employee organizes products at the Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

An employee organizes products at the Medicine Man marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A security guard from Blue Line Protection watches over production at The Shelter marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 24, 2014.

A security guard from Blue Line Protection watches over production at The Shelter marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 24, 2014.

A customer browses the merchandise at the River Rock Colorado marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A customer browses the merchandise at the River Rock Colorado marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

An employee tends to cannabis plants at the Medicine Man marijuana grow house in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

An employee tends to cannabis plants at the Medicine Man marijuana grow house in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Employees trim marijuana sprigs in the clipping room at the Medicine Man in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Employees trim marijuana sprigs in the clipping room at the Medicine Man in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

Employees transport a rack of marijuana in the River Rock Colorado marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

Employees transport a rack of marijuana in the River Rock Colorado marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A worker and patron prepare a joint of pot at the IBake Smoking Lounge, a members only marijuana club, in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

A worker and patron prepare a joint of pot at the IBake Smoking Lounge, a members only marijuana club, in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014.

A security guard from Blue Line Protection makes sure the coast is clear for a delivery at a marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 24, 2014.

A security guard from Blue Line Protection makes sure the coast is clear for a delivery at a marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 24, 2014.

A Blue Line Protection Group security guard stands watch during a supply run for a marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 24, 2014.

A Blue Line Protection Group security guard stands watch during a supply run for a marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 24, 2014.

Yvette Williams, the owner of Timberline Herbal Clinic, poses for a portrait in her broken storefront window in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014. Her marijuana dispensary was burglarized 3 days earlier in the middle of the night.

Yvette Williams, the owner of Timberline Herbal Clinic, poses for a portrait in her broken storefront window in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014. Her marijuana dispensary was burglarized 3 days earlier in the middle of the night.

Workers tend to cannabis plants in the greenhouse facility of the River Rock Colorado marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

Workers tend to cannabis plants in the greenhouse facility of the River Rock Colorado marijuana dispensary in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A pot smoker relaxes in the members only IBake Smoking Lounge in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A pot smoker relaxes in the members only IBake Smoking Lounge in Denver, Colo. on Jan. 23, 2014.

A Blue Line Protection Group officer stands guard in front of The New Age Wellness marijuana dispensary in Longmont, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014. The dispensary was attacked by masked gunmen, where an employee, 23, was assaulted and $6,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.

A Blue Line Protection Group officer stands guard in front of The New Age Wellness marijuana dispensary in Longmont, Colo. on Jan. 22, 2014. The dispensary was attacked by masked gunmen, where an employee, 23, was assaulted and $6,000 worth of merchandise was stolen.

This story was shot for NBC News.

An image from this story was included in The Year in Pictures, 2014 on The New York Times.

Recently published in Management magazine:

Pot Security

It also appeared in Newsweek Japan on May 27, 2014:

Newsweek Japan, May 27, 2014

Newsweek Japan, May 27, 2014