Week in Review: Unexpected DEA Move Rattles Cannabis Industry + Huge MMJ Interest in MA, IL

With all the progress medical marijuana has made this year – including legalization in several new states and the opening of dispensaries in a handful of others – you’d think the federal government would extend an olive branch to the industry.

Quite the opposite.

Last week, Medical Marijuana Business Daily wrote about how the Drug Enforcement Administration reportedly has ordered some of the nation’s largest armored truck services to cut ties with MMJ companies.

It’s a big slap to the medical cannabis industry, which has already won over the public across the country and has taken huge steps forward over the past year when it comes to professionalism and legitimacy.

Many dispensary owners expressed surprise that the government would go to such a new “low.”

In 2011 and the first half of last year, the Obama administration used various methods to close hundreds of dispensaries, including threatening landlords with civil forfeiture and raiding centers. But the feds had seemingly backed off their attacks on medical marijuana businesses after the November elections, fueling optimism among MMJ professionals that the government would take a more hands-off approach.

Now, however, it seems clear that the Obama administration is still very much against the industry and will continue to look for new ways to stifle the business.

Having already cut the industry off from banking and credit cards, the latest move involving armored truck companies creates an extremely dangerous situation for MMJ businesses. The development puts dispensary employees, vendors and even the general public at risk, given the large amounts of cash state-legal dispensaries have to move around on a daily basis. It also adds another layer of difficulty to operating a medical cannabis business, making logistics more complicated.

MMJ business owners should brace themselves for more of these types of attacks on the industry’s infrastructure going forward, rather than outright attempts to shut them down via raids (though those are certainly still a possibility in states without regulations).

Also last week, we saw signs that business interest is particularly strong in two new MMJ markets – Massachusetts and Illinois.

In Massachusetts, nearly 200 hopefuls submitted initial applications to open a dispensary in the state, while in Illinois one of the first business-related events targeting MMJ entrepreneurs (hosted by the National Cannabis Industry Association) sold out, attracting more than 200 attendees.

These are clear signs that entrepreneurs are eager to get involved in the industry despite all the challenges and entry barriers. Some in Illinois have already formed companies and are offering consulting services even though the law passed just a few weeks ago.

Expect competition for business licenses in both Massachusetts and Illinois to be fierce, meaning outside groups that run dispensaries in other states – or applicants that hire them as consultants – could have a significant leg up against newbies going it alone.

Other top stories in MMJ Business Daily last week:

Warning About Cannabis Stock Scams Highlights Difficulties for Investors

Industry’s 2013 Gains Reflect Growing Acceptance of MMJ Among Lawmakers