A common lament among members of the medical marijuana industry is that police and the media essentially work together to trump up incidents or look for connections to weed that may or may not exist -- as in Sunday's home-invasion robbery in Fort Collins, when medical marijuana was mentioned before any link was positively established.
For those looking for confirmation of such a conspiracy, here's a story to make them say, "Told you so." A widely reported robbery attempt at Metro Cannabis Inc., 4101 E. Wesley Avenue, a dispensary that was recently reviewed as part of our Mile Highs and Lows feature, didn't actually happen. And the dispensary's manager, who asks that his name not be used because he's wary of more misinformation, is mighty frustrated about it.
"They're trying to make the stigma even worse," he says.
Here's what happened:
The Denver Police Department issued a press release about a possible case of felony menacing at the dispensary. As documented by the Denver Daily News, DPD spokesman Sonny Jackson said a man entered Metro Cannabis in the early afternoon and asked that a number of items be brought out for his inspection. Then, however, he refused to pay for them and pulled a gun, but left without taking anything. Included was a description of the man and his vehicle, which was also included in reports from local news agencies such as Channel 7 and the Denver Post, whose original headline read, "Robber Sticks Up Pot Shop, Leaves Weed Behind."
Not quite. Within the past hour, the Post published a followup saying that no charges would be filed in the matter. The dispute was described as a conflict between two of the dispensary's employees, not a single customer -- and further investigation revealed no evidence that a gun had been drawn. In the Post piece, Jackson blamed the confusion on the men who'd called the cops in the first place; his story "has constantly changed," Jackson said.
Problem is, even this corrected story isn't quite correct, according to the manager. He says only one of the two men involved works with Metro Cannabis; he's a grower.
"The grower is there, and then this other guy came in," the manager says. "I guess they had old problems between them, and that boiled up. But there were no guns, and we can prove it. We have security cameras, so everything's recorded. And there were never any guns."
The flawed press coverage of this crime "has created a big problem for us," the manager continues. "We've had patients call us saying, 'Did you guys get robbed?' They're concerned for their safety. But we've never had anything like that happen. We have a very sophisticated security system. There are never less than two or three people in the store at any time, and one person constantly watches the monitors. Everybody knows they're being monitored, and all the employees wear panic buttons. It's a lot easier to rob a 7-Eleven than it is to rob us, and that's the way we want it. Because we want our patients to feel safe."
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The manager feels that anytime medical marijuana is part of a story these days, news organizations portray it in the most sensational way possible -- and in this case, it was wholly unjustified.
"This argument could have happened anywhere," he notes. "It could have happened at a King Soopers. Somebody could have cut somebody else off in line and they got pissed off. It was nothing more serious than that. But when it happens at a dispensary, they make a big deal out of it. They're just trying to make things worse than they are -- make them seem dangerous.
"This kind of reporting just goes to discredit our efforts," he says.
In this case, there's a lot of discredit to go around.