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Armoured car company that transports legal cannabis cash files lawsuit against the U.S. government

Jan 21, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

Denver-based Empyreal Logistics argues it has been unfairly targeted by enforcement agencies that have made it a victim of highway robbery.

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A U.S. armoured car company that provides cash transport services between cannabis businesses and banks is fighting back, charging that law enforcement actions impeding its lawful operations are akin to highway robbery.

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Denver-based Empyreal Enterprises, LLC., doing business as Empyreal Logistics, is a cash-in-transit company that operates in 28 state, notes the lawsuit filed last week in the United States District Court in California.

Naming, among others, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the company points to what it claims to be “repeated and continuing highway robberies of armoured cars by government agents.” None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven.

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There have been “ongoing stops and searches of its vehicles, and the seizure of cash and other property lawfully transported therein. These unlawful and unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures are orchestrated by the DOJ and its subordinate law-enforcement agencies,” the suit contends.

The company argues that its vehicles are being targeted by federal and local policing agencies despite the cash being transported coming from “state-legal medical and adult-use cannabis dispensaries to legitimate financial institutions.”

Notably, the suit argues, “Empyreal never transports any actual cannabis. Empyreal also provides cash transport services for traditional, non-cannabis businesses, such as restaurants and convenience stores.”

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Information posted on FindLaw notes “the legal implications of transporting marijuana within a particular state will depend on the laws of the individual state.”

For example, if recreational weed is not legal in a state, it is also against the law to transport the prohibited drug. If cannabis has been legalized, the state will need businesses to be licensed before being able to transport marijuana.

The company and all its clients comply with applicable laws, Empyreal reports. For its part, the company reports on its website that its “secure currency transportation platform utilizes state-of-the art tracking, enhanced monitoring and always-on, 360-degree surveillance on our entire fleet.” Each car in the fleet receives GPS tracking updates every 10 seconds.

Still, Empyreal argues its vehicles have been stopped five times since May of 2021. And three of those times in 2021 — once in Kansas and in November and December in San Bernardino County, Calif. — the cash contents of the vehicles were seized by the authorities.

The Kansas stop resulted in the seizure of about US$165,620 ($207,025), the lawsuit reads, while the California stops involved about US$700,000 ($875,000) and US$350,000 ($437,500) being confiscated.

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Despite the cash seizure, “no criminal charges have been brought against Empyreal or any of its employees relating to any of the traffic stops, searches or seizures discussed in this complaint,” the suit reads.

“Sheriff’s deputies are carrying on pre-textual stops of Empyreal’s armoured vehicles, searching them and seizing the cash contents — covering up their surveillance cameras and sometimes damaging Empyreal’s vehicles to access the cash in their secured vaults — and are then turning the seized cash over to federal law-enforcement for forfeiture proceedings under the federal equitable sharing program,” the lawsuit alleges.

The non-profit Institute for Justice reports “the California seizures are especially questionable because there is no doubt that Empyreal’s business is legal in the state; in fact, it’s considered essential for safely moving cash off the premises of cannabis businesses.”

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To avoid having cannabis companies sitting on large amounts of cash, “the California Legislature passed a law making clear that it was legal — and important to the State — for armoured car companies, like Empyreal, to work with state-licensed cannabis businesses to transport their deposits to financial institutions for safekeeping,” the institute adds.

Per the lawsuit, the company argues: “There is no legitimate reason that San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies should be targeting a state-sanctioned business that is operating lawfully under California law. And there is no legitimate reason for federal agencies to be targeting a business that provides financial infrastructure sup port for the state-legal medical cannabis industry.”

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Citing the negative effect on its business, the company reports it has been forced to suspend business operations in San Bernardino County and has stopped driving through Kansas.

Empyreal contends the real reason for the seizures “is because it is very profitable for these law-enforcement agencies to seize the cash proceeds that Empyreal is transporting and keep that money using civil forfeiture.”

Given the situation and ongoing effect on the business, “Empyreal seeks not only permanent injunctive and declaratory relief, but also seeks immediate injunctive and declaratory relief in the form of a Temporary Restraining Order and a preliminary injunction so that it can resume business operations in San Bernardino County and is not forced to suspend further business operations in California or elsewhere during the pendency of this lawsuit.”

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