Armored car company settles lawsuit over $1 million pot sale seizures

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (AP) — A Pennsylvania armored car company has settled its lawsuit that accused the San Bernardino County Sheriff of illegally seizing more than $1 million in cash he was transporting from businesses in medical marijuana.

The settlement without financial compensation announced on Friday allows Empyreal Logistics to resume services after two cash transports were stopped and cash seized in November and December, The Sun of San Bernardino reported.

Deputies said in a search warrant that there was probable cause that a crime had been committed when the vehicle was stopped on November 16 and $700,000 was seized.

Although California is one of 37 states that allow the medical use of marijuana and one of 18 that have legalized its recreational use, the drug remains illegal under federal law.

Because the big banks and credit card companies have shunned the industry, it is largely cash-based. As a result, some businesses have turned to armored cars to transport large amounts of cash.

In a statement, the sheriff’s department said it recognizes Empyreal acted in good faith.

“Both parties also recognize that Empyreal is part of the solution to help with financial transparency and that San Bernardino deputies are not freeway thieves as previously reported in the media,” the statement read.

The company had previously reached an agreement in which federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, agreed to return the money.

Empyreal CEO Deirdra O’Gorman said the company filed a lawsuit in federal court because its state-licensed cannabis customers and financial institution customers are operating legally.

“Now that the funds have been returned and after meeting with the sheriff, we are confident that we can continue to serve the state’s lawful businesses without future disruptions,” O’Gorman said in a statement.

Under federal civil forfeiture laws, if law enforcement had been allowed to seize the money as proceeds of crime, San Bernardino County could have kept 80% of the money and the federal government would get the rest.

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