As a drug enforcement agent, Scott Durst spent three decades trying to put illegal drug dealers in jail, both in Maine and abroad.
Now the retired police officer is making a second career for himself as a private security consultant for Maine’s legal cannabis growers, transporting cash between five state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and the handful of banks that will accept legal marijuana profits. He teaches the industry how to thwart would-be criminals and local police how to work with the industry.
“At first, I thought, ‘Oh boy, I don’t know if I can do this,’ but I talked to my former colleagues, and they said if somebody’s going to do it, we’re glad it’s you, because this is going to be a nightmare for law enforcement,” Durst recalled on a recent cannabis cash run. “That’s how I justify it in my head. I’m still fighting illegal drug crime. I’m just doing it from the inside.”
Three days a week, the 64-year-old dons his tourist garb, hops in an inconspicuous SUV, and sets about the very serious business of blending into the background. While some security teams go for flash, using armored cars and exposed sidearms to deter robbers, he tries hard to fly under the radar. Durst feels like he’s done a good job if you don’t even know he was there.
His primary mission is to carry cash that patients use to buy medical marijuana from the dispensaries to banks and credit unions. The money is tucked into locked bank bags, a trunk safe and a generic-looking backpack. When he picks up a bulging bank bag, he never knows if it’s full of George Washingtons or Ben Franklins because only the dispensary and the bank have keys.
Durst incorporates a lot of evasive maneuvers into his work routine. He changes up the order in which he will visit the dispensaries. He varies his driving route often, sometimes driving the highway and other times taking different back roads. He doesn’t eat out; he eats a bag lunch on the side of the road in a different spot each time. He only uses a dispensary bathroom.
Durst carries a gun, but it is hardly noticeable tucked under his T-shirt. But his posture, purposeful gait and penchant for power stances definitely make it clear that he has served in the military or law enforcement, or in his case, both. In the fall, Durst will be gaining a new partner for these excursions – a Belgian Shepherd to provide an extra layer of protection.
The Maine dispensaries that hired Durst – Remedy Compassion Center in Auburn and Wellness Connection in Bath, Brewer, Gardiner and Portland – use four different banks and credit unions, some as far as an hour away. When Wellness opened its first dispensary in 2011, it used a staff member to bank its deposits, but it hired Durst when its sales began to increase.
His past Maine Drug Enforcement Agency experience made Durst an “obvious and easy choice for us,” said CEO Patricia Rosi.
Durst specialized in undercover work and narcotics during his 32-year law enforcement career, which included 10 years with Portland police and 21 years with the MDEA. He did undercover work for a private investigator in a paper mill where employees were stealing and selling paper. He briefly worked as a state prison investigator.
Scott Durst, left, a retired Maine DEA agent, receives a deposit bag of cash from Kyle Dunn, manager of Wellness Connection in Portland. Durst helps cannabis dispensaries and caregivers transport cash from their businesses. The lack of a banking system puts the cannabis industry at risk, forcing the biggest growers to hire security to move their marijuana and money between grow houses, dispensaries and offices. (Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald)