For marijuana entrepreneurs, the feeling across the industry was, until recently, that the days of Drug Enforcement Administration raids on state-regulated dispensaries and cultivation sites were over. But, after the White House warned that recreational marijuana could see "greater enforcement" and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said marijuana should not be legalized, entrepreneurs across the industry are training employees on how to act if the authorities burst the doors down.
"I told my employees that I do not think there will be a raid, but after Spicer's and Sessions' comments that I would rather be prepared," one entrepreneur, who asked to remain anonymous, said. "I told them, if the DEA raids our facility, here's what it would look like: a bunch of agents will come with, likely with guns drawn, and they will start asking people questions and removing product. Do not answer questions; you should plead the Fifth Amendment. If they continue to ask questions, all you say is 'please speak to my company's attorney.' The end."
The entrepreneur and the company's other co-founders did not want to cause hysteria, but they felt it was best to train employees and instill best practices before they needed them. The founders explain that the most important thing is to stay put and stay quiet during a raid.
"DEA agents will try different tactics, some will be aggressive and mean and others will be friendly, but remember they are professionals and they are here to extract information," the entrepreneur told employees. "Please don't think if you say something in my defense you're helping me in any way. If you talk, you make things worse."
Henry Wykowski, a defense attorney who successfully fought the federal government in asset forfeiture cases against dispensaries Harborside and Berkeley Patients Group, says all companies should have formal plans for enforcement action.
"I told all my clients that until cannabis is federally legal, you should have a raid procedure," says Wykowski.
Wykowski said most of his clients think cannabis has a solid foothold as over half of all states now have some form of legalization and the industry can withstand strong political rhetoric. But others said they are rethinking plans for expansion.
A grower in Northern California says there is fear among marijuana farmers, but, he says, inherent risk is part of the industry until federal legalization.
"It's like we're all on the beach surfing and every now and then one of us gets eaten by a shark," says the grower. "Just because one of us goes down doesn't mean we will never surf again, it doesn't stop us. It's important for us to be reminded that sharks are still in the water."