PITTSBURGH - Thousands of Pennsylvanians have turned to medical marijuana since the drug became legally available last year, but dispensaries and their customers are living in fear.
Since the federal government considers marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic -- the same class as heroin -- banks and credit card companies are keeping their distance, meaning patients must carry large amounts of cash and go to great lengths to keep it safe.
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"We've seen people with it strapped on them," Chris Kohan, founder of The Healing Center, said. "Pull their pant leg up, it's on their sock."
11 Investigates' Katherine Amenta sat down with a medical marijuana patient who went by the name Margo to protect her identity. She feels the medical marijuana industry isn't safe for customers.
"I am concerned when I head from my car to the front door," she said.
Ted Daniels is the CEO of National Cannabis Security Services. His team provides security for about 80 percent of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana cash transports. He said customers need to have their heads on a swivel.
- In first year, Pennsylvanians paid out $132M for medical pot
- Lt. Gov. Fetterman starts marijuana hearings in central Pennsylvania
- Pa. Rep. Wheatley introduces bill to legalize recreational marijuana
- Wolf says he's a realist on issue of recreational marijuana
"Either they'd go in with a lot of cash and they get robbed in the parking lot," Daniels said. "Or, they come out with a lot of product and get robbed in the parking lot."
Daniels believes federal legalization of marijuana is the only way to cut down on crime and ease concerns.
"This is not an industry where a $10 to $15 an hour guard, I feel, suffices," he said.
In the meantime, Margo said it comes down to a difficult choice for patients.
"They have to do a trade off of, 'Will it help me?'" Margo said. "'Am I willing to...risk my personal safety to try this?'"
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