After a week of sensationalist headlines wrongly insinuating a non-existent link between medical marijuana dispensaries and increased violence, we were compelled to provide a voice of reason on the issue.
Our response was carried by yesterday's Denver Post. In the column, titled "Setting the Facts Straight on Medical Marijuana," and co-authored with our fellow attorneys Bob Hoban and Lauren Davis, we challenge reporters to get the facts before perpetuating marijuana's bad rap.
On Dec. 17th, The Denver Post devoted extensive coverage to medical marijuana. A front page story chronicled Denver's regulatory efforts and the local section was headlined by a piece titled 'Pot clinic robbed by pair of men: Denver police report 25 medical-marijuana-related crimes in the last five months.'
Certainly, the Post was just one of many media outlets jumping at the opportunity to cover the robbery, posting coverage on its Web site less than an hour after police first arrived on the scene. Unfortunately, the focus distracted reporters from the bigger story: an ongoing rash of bank robberies that make the dispensary attack look like child's play.
As we continued in the column:
Consider this: while the Post was just one of many media outlets clamoring to cover this week's robbery, the same week saw a much more troubling trend, with as many as 10 bank robberies committed throughout the Denver region in just four days.
Three days later, the total number of Denver bank robberies is up to at least 14.
While it is tempting to draw broader conclusions based on this week's crime sprees, we will stop short of concluding that depositing a check at the local bank is more dangerous than picking up marijuana at the nearest dispensary. Instead we will stick to the facts. Twenty-five medical marijuana robberies have been reported to law enforcement authorities in the last six months. A Colorado bank, meanwhile, has been robbed nearly every other day in 2009. According to government statistics, more than 180 banks have already been hit this year alone, making Colorado one of the five most vulnerable states in the country.
As attorneys representing patients and caregivers in a landmark lawsuit challenging the City of Centennial's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, we hope our efforts will help local governments across our state separate fact from fiction, allowing them to act with reason, compassionate, and fiscal sensibility.
In response to the Dec. 17th dispensary burglary, Denver Police Spokesman Joe J. Ramirez had this to say. "There's no obvious trend at this point. It appears to be just random. (Dispensaries) may represent an attractive target for the criminal element but we don't know that yet."
Nearly a decade has passed since Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing legal access to medical marijuana's sick and dying. While a pattern of violence has not yet emerged, other much more positive trends have. Dispensaries provide jobs, they fill retail vacancies, they pay sales taxes, and most important in times of record health care costs, they provide affordable health care alternatives to thousands of people across our state.