Boulder pot robbery could add wrinkle to July medical-marijuana hearing

Our February 4 story, "Medical Marijuana Has Become a Growth Industry in Colorado," described how the state's medical pot laws have fueled a booming dispensary industry -- an industry that was starting to look like the Wild West, with robberies and rip-off accusations thanks to lax regulations and fly-by-night entrepreneurs. Now, as noted in yesterday's blog "Men Wanted for Taking Medical Marijuana Without Prescription," you can add one more high-profile stick-up job to the list of local marijuana hijinks. Four men have been arrested in connection to the theft of two containers of wacky tabacky from the New Options Wellness Clinic marijuana dispensary in Boulder. They've been identified as David Henderson, 40, Justin St. John, 29, Walter Carter, 21 and Lamar McGee, 22. (They can be seen in the above Daily Camera video.) A Boulder Police Department release says that "Henderson is facing charges of conspiracy and accessory. St. John is facing charges of conspiracy and forgery. Carter is facing charges of robbery and conspiracy. McGee is facing charges of robbery, conspiracy and second-degree kidnapping. All four were booked into the Boulder County Jail."

State officials could use this incident as Exhibit Number 1 in their case for why we need stricter medical-marijuana standards.

Administrators say Colorado's loosely defined pot laws have led to the rapid proliferation of fly-by-night marijuana dispensaries -- operations that are targets for robberies like the one yesterday. That's why the Colorado Board of Health has proposed new marijuana regulations that, among other things, would limit each pot caregiver to five patients -- rules that seem designed to torpedo the dispensary industry.

Those rules will be the subject of a board of health public hearing from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on July 20 at the Tivoli Student Union's Conference Room 250 on the Auraria Campus, 900 Auraria Parkway. This 450-person conference room will likely hold a packed house; the hearing was delayed in March after overwhelming outcry over the issue forced officials to look for a larger venue than the one they'd originally arranged. It's proof the state's medical-marijuana community is up in arms over the proposed new rules. While many of them agree the state's medical-marijuana industry should be regulated, marijuana activists say it shouldn't involve getting rid of the dispensaries, which they describe as potentially one of the safest and most efficient means of getting marijuana meds. Folks are already paranoid about their medical marijuana suppliers getting busted up by robbers -- they don't want to worry about state health officials doing it, too.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner