The new rules, approved by Denver City Council before being adopted by the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses and the City Attorney's Office on October 4, were proposed after Denver saw a rise in burglaries and robberies at legal marijuana businesses in 2020.
According to Denver Police Department data, burglaries associated with legal marijuana rose from 122 in 2019 to 175 in 2020, while other violent offenses — crimes including robbery, aggravated assault, homicide and rape — stayed flat. Violent offenses related to legal marijuana also increased by 64 percent between 2014 and 2020.
The DPD has issued a handful of crime memos over the past two years warning marijuana business owners about a rise in crime targeting the marijuana industry, which largely operates in cash because of the plant's federal prohibition.
Under the new rules, Denver dispensaries are required to have at least one safe during off-hours for cash and processed marijuana products that is secured to a building and located in an area with "little access." Frozen and refrigerated marijuana products such as concentrate, beverages and perishable edibles also must be locked in areas with restricted access after hours.
Stores that don't have a room for a safe must install alternative security measures, such as physical barriers to keep cars from smashing into the building, live video surveillance, sirens and alarm systems, or an on-site security guard during open and closed hours. Dispensaries must comply with the rules by January 1, 2022.
“The input we received from law enforcement, the cannabis industry, our elected representatives and the public has been crucial in crafting the first safe storage requirements for marijuana in Denver history," Ashley Kilroy, executive director of Denver's Excise and Licenses says in a statement. "We hope these new rules will curtail the recent increase in dispensary burglaries and support the continued success of this industry, which has provided many positive economic impacts to our city.”
Future marijuana hospitality establishments with micro-sales licenses will also be subject to the new security rules; Excise and Licenses will begin accepting applications for such businesses in November.
The department also opted into a new state law allowing walk-up and to-go windows at dispensaries. Temporarily allowed through executive orders issued by Governor Jared Polis during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, to-go windows had to close in July when the executive order expired. The state Marijuana Enforcement Division authorized permanent to-go windows earlier this year, but local governments must approve them first.
Under Denver's new rules, to-go and drive-thru windows can't display menus or signage around the service windows, but handheld menus can be provided. All customers must show ID before placing an order, and drive-thru windows must be made of bullet-resistant glass, with security cameras recording front and back license plates on all motor vehicles in the drive-thru lane.