Owners of Denver Dispensaries Speak Out

Almost one-third of crime in the city happens near Denver dispensaries, but that can’t be blamed on the dispensaries themselves.

Based on an analysis of statistics provided by the City of Denver, crime near Denver dispensaries increased slightly during the first half of 2013. But the statistics showed no evidence that crime in the surrounding neighborhoods is driven by the dispensaries or that there are more crimes at pot shops than there have been in the past.

In late July, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey claimed medical marijuana had been linked to a dozen murders and hundreds of robberies. But weed advocates challenged him, and he later admitted he used “loose figures” that included growers who sell illegally out of their homes.

“We’ve seen from multiple reports based on law enforcement statistics that licensed and regulated medical-marijuana facilities do not increase crime in surrounding areas, and in fact in many cases, crime decreases,” said Betty Aldworth of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

Between the first half of 2012 and the first half of 2013, crime near dispensaries was up 1.8 percent, about the same as crime in Denver overall. Violent crime was up slightly while property crime was down. There were a total of about 7,000 crimes reported within 1,000 feet of a dispensary.

The statistics on crimes at weed shops aren’t broken out by crime, so the Post was unable to analyze the specific impact of the stores on crime figures in their neighborhoods. But the numbers did indicate the dispensaries aren’t driving overall crime in the surrounding areas.

This isn’t the first time official figures have demonstrated medical marijuana dispensaries don’t generate crime. The Denver Department of Safety published a report finding a drop in crime within 1,000 feet of dispensaries between 2009 and 2010.

“I don’t think we’re a magnet for crime… We are like any business with a product that is valuable, easily transferable and small.”

Chris Hagseth, Denver dispensary operator

Also, a 2012 report by the University of Southern California concluded that the presence of dispensaries, as well as their density, doesn’t appear to play any role in crime rates. The study was conducted in Sacramento.

Pot shops are targeted by crime, of course, just like any business open to the public. Dispensaries tend to operate as cash-only businesses, and their product can be resold on the black market. But the evidence suggests the occasional burglaries and thefts are no worse than they are at most gas stations, convenience stores and banks.

Chris Hagseth, a dispensary operator in Denver, has been burglarized but didn’t consider it a serious problem.

“I don’t think we’re a magnet for crime,” Hagseth told the newspaper. “We are like any business with a product that is valuable, easily transferable and small.”

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