Federal litigation ensues after police confiscate cannabis dispensary cash

An Empyreal Cannabis employee was questioned by the police officer about the vehicle’s contents, which turned out to be a whole load of cash


A staggering $1.2 million has been confiscated from a white van, with the driver accused of illegally transporting money from state-licensed cannabis dispensaries to financial organizations, such as banks and credit facilities.

Kalen Robison, a Dickinson County sheriff’s deputy, was the man behind the cannabis cash seizures. The events unfolded one day when Robison’s patrol vehicle was parked three miles west of Abilene. 

After spending some time observing eastbound Interstate 70 traffic, he clocked a white armored van with suspected Colorado plates. Immediately after, Robison gave his automobile some gas, caught up with the vehicle and approached the female driver.

Robison claims that the reason for the stopover which an attorney describes in a court document as “the repeated and continuing highway robberies of armored cars by government agents” was because the driver’s license plate was partially concealed. 

Soon after, the Empyreal Cannabis employee was questioned by the police officer about the vehicle’s contents, which turned out to be a whole load of cash.

“From the very get-go, they knew it was medical cannabis and that they would be seizing medical cannabis proceeds, and they are not supposed to be spending any funds to do that, including spending money on surveillance outside of medical cannabis dispensaries in Missouri,” said lawyer Dan Alban, who represented Empyreal — a tier 2 cannabis producer and processor.

Cannabis dispensary cash seizures: Additional seizures occurred the following day

On May 18, 2021, the day after the seizures took place, the van was stopped once more by Robison. This time, he took possession of more than $165,000. 

The drivers of Empyreal Logistics’ vans had little chance of avoiding a stopover by this point, since law enforcement officials had already added the armored vehicle company’s details to a national database that utilizes computerized license plate scanners to detect certain automobiles in high-speed traffic.

A few months later, on November 16, yet another Empyreal armored car was stopped by the San Bernardino County, California, Sheriff’s Office. Law enforcement officials took $700,000 from the vehicle, followed by a seizure of approximately $350,000 on December 9.

Shocked isn’t the half of it. I’ve been a banker my entire career—26 years in the banking industry,” said Empyreal’s founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dierdra O’Gorman, who founded the Denver-based company in June 2018. Nowadays, the business is conducted in 28 U.S. states.

“I decided to start Empyreal with hopes of trying to fix some of the challenges that I experienced on the other side of the service model, being a financial institution working with armored car companies,” O’Gorman continued. “I have prided myself on my career being focused on compliance and helping financial institutions with their Bank Secrecy Act and Anti-Money Laundering [Act] compliance. It’s been everything that we do and every part of the equation for us, making sure that we are following the rules.”

Cannabis dispensary cash seizures: Lawsuit was filed after “highway robberies”

Once the seizures had taken place, Empyreal proceeded to file a lawsuit against a handful of law enforcement agencies asking that the federal government put an end to “highway robberies.” However, Empyreal’s request for a temporary restraining order was rejected.

The court is compelled to express its concerns regarding Empyreal’s litigation tactics,” wrote District Judge John W. Holcomb, who warned Empyreal’s lawyers to stop bypassing the law, before encouraging them to be completely honest with the court.

Alban, who serves as senior attorney with the nonprofit Institute for Justice, responded by citing the Fourth Amendment. 

“The Fourth Amendment requires at least reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop a vehicle. The way highway interdiction works is you get behind the vehicle and you come up with the excuse to pull it over. If you follow someone long enough, they are going to commit some minor traffic infraction.”

The cannabis cash seizures are reflective of the government’s stiff stance towards the green plant, which is still considered a federally illegal substance under U.S. law.