Off-duty Denver police officers will not be allowed to moonlight as security guards for retail marijuana stores, according to a recent departmental memo.
The Denver Post reports that moonlighting cops earned more than $10 million from 2009-12 pulling duty as private security guards for concerts, sports bars and liquor stores.
Such businesses pay as much as $45 per hour for a uniformed cop to keep the peace, a practice encouraged by police officials because it cuts down on the need for on-duty police patrols at locations that might get rowdy.
Marijuana stores, which are set to open on Jan. 1, pose unique problems for security, however. Because banks and credit card companies won’t work with such establishments, citing laws that prohibit them from dealing with money earned from activities that are illegal under federal law, pot stores will be cash only. That has some city officials concerned about the heightened risk of robbery.
But the same conflict between state and local laws that has the banks concerned — selling marijuana is still illegal under federal law, despite being legalized in Colorado and Washington — prevents police from moonlighting at pot shops.
“Can you imagine a Denver cop in full uniform working at a marijuana dispensary store when the feds come and serve a search warrant?” police union president Nick Rogers told the Denver Post.
The U.S. Department of Justice has said it would take a hands-off approach to the marijuana industries in Colorado and Washington, but warned that federal agents would swoop in if any businesses were believed to violate several conditions. Those include ensuring no sales to minors, no diversion out of state and no ties to drug cartels, among others.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents recently raided several marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, including one with suspected ties to a drug cartel.
A police spokesman told the Post that officers would enhance patrols near the retail locations, especially in the early weeks that are expected to draw a large number of customers.
Official departmental policy prohibits cops from moonlighting at places of ill repute, like strip clubs and porn shops, the Post reported. But pot shops might not be off limits forever.
“Officers can expect future revisions regarding policies pertaining to marijuana as the laws are developed and finalized,” the memo read.
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