Mar 30, 2010 3:32 AM by Jeannette Hynes

Medical marijuana dispensaries targets for crime

In the past week, two places carrying medical marijuana in Colorado Springs have become robbery targets. 

The latest happened Monday afternoon when police say two men threatened employees with a knife, then maced them.  The robbers locked the employees in a back room and took marijuana and cash.  Police have not arrested anyone for that robbery.

On March 24, robbers used a stun gun on people inside of a Colorado Springs home that grew marijuana.

On February 25, Colorado Springs police arrested a man for burglarizing three medical marijuana dispensaries in a half-hour time period.

On September 13, 2009, a woman and her young child were beaten when robbers invaded their home for the medical marijuana she grew inside the home.

Security is a top concern for people in the medical marijuana business.

"There's things in here people would want that could easily turn into cash," says Mike Kopta, owner of Natural Advantage medical marijuana dispensary.

Before Kopta opened his business in December, he says he spent $30,000 on security:  locks, cameras, lights, bars, and barbed wire.  Every employee, including himself, wears a panic button on a chain around their neck.

"We can hit that and there would be all kinds of noise, plus the police would be on their way," says Kopta.

District Attorney Dan May says he'd rather see medical marijuana treated more like medicine and less like a commercial business.

"The dispensary model brings crime with it," says May. "You're seeing burglaries, robberies, home invasions."

May says people are abusing the system, and it is up to lawmakers and law enforcers to decide what kind of system should be set up to keep the crimes to a minimum. 

Several pieces of legislation have been introduced at the Colorado legislature, and everyone from dispensary owners to police officers to medical marijuana patients are watching closely.

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