On Wednesday morning, while the Denver City Council's safety committee was going over member Charlie Brown's latest pot proposal, two men tried to rob The Healthy Choice Wellness Center -- an incident that led to two elementary schools being locked down as well as loads of media coverage.
The heist attempt confirmed to councilman Michael Hancock that the council "is on the right track" regarding security provisions written into the proposed ordinance -- and he understands why folks at some dispensaries are arming themselves.
"From what we've heard, a lot of these owners have concealed-weapon permits -- and would I do that if I was running one of these businesses? Probably," Hancock says. "It's a high cash business, and it sells a product that some people who don't need it as patients still might want to use recreationally.
"The ordinance calls for armed security offers on site," he adds, "and hopefully things like that will be a deterrent to crime."
In the wake of Wednesday's safety committee hearing, word began circulating that Hancock planned to write a letter to Denver mayor John Hickenlooper asking him to impose an immediate moratorium on new dispensaries until the ordinance could take effect. Hancock says that's not the case, although the rumor had a basis in reality.
"I was never planning to write a letter," he says. "What I was looking into was whether the mayor could issue moratorium from Wednesday to the end of the month. It was just a conversation, and I found out that the Mayor couldn't legally issue an executive order on sales tax licenses and the city council wouldn't be able to act fast enough so that the moratorium would be in place immediately. It would have taken at least two and a half weeks, and that would have taken us past the first of the year."
Regarding matters of safety, Hancock says, "the ordinance addresses some important security issues, like having security officers at these facilities, and cameras. Some of these men and women who aren't necessarily patients and who are thinking about robbing one of these facilities will hopefully think twice if they know that whatever they do will be recorded, and that they might run into someone who's armed."
Another section of the proposal calls for dispensaries to be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools -- which, as Hancock notes, is twice the distance required of liquor stores. (Of course, there's no such restriction on banks, even though they've been the subject of a striking number of armed robberies lately.) Not that Hancock thinks this figure should be reduced.
"Quite frankly, I'd prefer that they were a mile away, but that's impossible with the number of schools we have in Denver," he says. "But we just want to prevent a situation where these dispensaries are across the street or next door to schools."
Especially when lead starts to fly.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.