The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday agreed to return all cash seized from an armored car company used by legal Cannabis dispensaries during several traffic stops in California last year. The company, Empyreal, had filed a federal lawsuit in response.
The California seizures occurred due to what cops learned in Kansas during a May traffic stop, reports the Missouri Indepenent. In that incident, Kansas officers stopped an Empyreal Logistics car. Conversations between state and federal law enforcement agencies stemming from the stop resulted in a series of events in which Kansas and California officers stole, I mean seized, more than $1.2 million.
The company soon filed its federal lawsuit detailing how a deputy in Dickinson County stopped one of their vehicles. The car was transporting cash from licensed Cannabis dispensaries to banks and credit unions. The cops “seized” more than $165,000 on Interstate 70.
Empyreal Says Settlement Only Covers DOJ
In response, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas filed a civil forfeiture action against Empyreal. The feds claim that transporting the cash violates of the Controlled Substances Act because it is the proceeds of marijuana sales.
A firm representing Empyreal announced Wednesday the DOJ had agreed to return all funds seized by the San Bernardino County Sheriff — approximately $1.1 million. Empyreal, in turn, agreed to drop the lawsuit.
However, according to the firm representing Empyreal in the federal suit, the settlement only covers the DOJ seizure. They maintain it doesn’t address the San Bernardino sheriff’s office itself, or the case in Kansas.
Empyreal Never Transports Cannabis, Just Cash
“Empyreal has always viewed ourselves as a partner to financial institutions and law enforcement,” said Empyreal CEO Deirdra O’Gorman. “Our service increases transparency and makes communities safer.”
Empyreal operates in 28 states and provides cash logistics solutions. These include secure cash delivery between businesses such as state-licensed marijuana operations and financial institutions.
The company never transports Cannabis products.
Same Officer Stopped Same Van Two Days In A Row
The lawsuit alleged Dickinson County Sheriff’s Deputy Kalen Robinson pulled over a transit van heading east on the interstate. The deputy claimed a partially obscured license plate was his reason for the stop. After a conversation with a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, Robinson told the Empyreal driver she was free to go.
As the van headed back to Colorado the next day after picking up cash from Missouri dispensaries, Robinson again pulled over the van. During the three-hour stop, the sheriff’s office seized five bags of cash.
The money totaled $165,855, according to the offense report filed in connection with the case.
No Traffic Citations Issued In Any Of The 5 Stops
Empyreal said the cops issued no traffic citations to their drivers during any of the five stops mentioned in its complaint. But the company said it was forced to stop transporting cash through Kansas because of the seizures.
Their attorneys argued the stop occurring in Kansas was not useful, even if the state has not legalized any form of marijuana use, because it harms legally operating cannabis businesses.
“Empyreal was operating legally under California law, but with current federal civil forfeiture laws, even compliant businesses can be targeted,” said IJ Senior Attorney Dan Alban of the now-settled federal case. “Returning this money is the right thing to do.”
Thank You, Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment!
Federal law prohibits the U.S. Department of Justice from spending tax money to prevent states from implementing marijuana legalization.
To be exact, it stops states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
The prohibition, known as the Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment, became law in 2014. It must be renewed every year. It remains in effect.