Photos: Will there be more armed dispensary robberies when recreational pot sales start?
Over the years, we've documented numerous medical marijuana dispensary robberies, with most taking place after hours and many of them inept -- like a 2012 heist that netted a broken scale and $8 from the karma jar. But a recent Longmont dispensary stick-up last week was scarier, featuring two masked gunmen who got away with nearly $11,000 in MMJ. Are law enforcers worried about more such crimes with recreational pot sales in the offing? A Boulder County sheriff's rep doesn't put it quite that way, but she makes it clear her office is prepping for the possibility.
According to Boulder County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Commander Heidi Prentup, the robbery took place at New Age Wellness in Longmont on the evening of Thursday, November 14 -- but there were signs of possible trouble prior to the moment when the gunman arrived.
New Age Wellness, in a CBS4 image.
"We had a door-kick burglary attempt the night before at the same location," Prentup says. "We don't know that it was the same people, but the alarm went off the night before, and it's possible it scared them off. So they came back when the alarm wasn't set."
Indeed they did. As detailed in a CBS4 report, two armed men looking like a thuggish variation on Blue Man Group members, with their faces covered in masks color coordinated with the rest of their outfit, burst in at closing time, just as staffers were securing the medical marijuana stock in a safe. They got away with MMJ estimated at just shy of $11,000 in value.
Here's one look at the men, from surveillance footage obtained by the BCSO:
At this point, no one is in custody for the crimes and investigators don't have any suspects.
Prentup confirms that dispensary robberies like this one, in which employees are terrorized at gunpoint, haven't been frequent occurrences in Boulder. But she understands why criminals might zero in on them.
"Marijuana dispensaries are high cash places," she points out. "People don't usually use credit cards to buy marijuana."
One reason for that, of course, is due to current regulations that prevent marijuana businesses from using the banking system. Prentup doesn't take a position about whether modifying those rules would make such businesses safer. But she does note that "they have a lot of cash on hand, plus they've got product that people are looking for. So, of course, it's a concern for us."
With recreational pot sales in the offing, more incidents like these could take place. But the sheriff's office has a plan in place.
A CBS4 image of New Age Wellness' interior.
"Typically what we try and do is have safety talks with all of the businesses," Prentup says. "We talk about how they can reduce their target so people don't pick them" to rob.
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Among the BCSO's suggestions, she goes on, is "having a good alarm system, never having one employee there alone, keeping as little cash on hand as they can, having video surveillance and good lighting around the exterior of the building and being sure to secure the product in safe."
Given that New Age Wellness appears to have followed all of these practices, taking such precautions is no guarantee of safety. But they at least improve the odds.
Here's the aforementioned CBS4 report about the robbery, followed by two more surveillance photos. If you have any information about the crime, you're encouraged to call the Boulder County Sheriff's Office at 303-441-4444 or Boulder Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8427).
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
More from our Marijuana archive circa May 2012: "Medical marijuana dispensary burglary nets $8 and a broken scale."
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