The February 1 press conference about the arrest of Joshua Cummings in the execution-style killing of RTD security officer Scott Von Lanken took place on an upper level of the Denver Police Department administration building. Afterward, I rode an elevator toward the ground floor with DPD public-information officer Doug Schepman and another man. As we descended, the man asked, "Do the elevators here always smell like weed?"
Schepman laughed. "Some days are worse than others," he said.
Truth be told, I hadn't immediately noticed the smell. As a Denver-area resident, the odor of cannabis hardly gets my attention at this point unless I'm in an area where the aroma is completely overwhelming — next to a grow house, for example. But following this exchange, I took a big whiff, and sure enough, the elevator did bear the unmistakable scent of sinsemilla.
And according to Lieutenant Cliff Carney of the department's property bureau, corresponding via e-mail, that's not exactly unusual.
Carney notes that the amount of marijuana brought into the main DPD building as evidence fluctuates. But on average, the department takes in 86 items identified as marijuana each week.
Pot was hardly rare in the property bureau prior to the explosion of the Denver cannabis industry. But Carney maintains that the amount collected "increased by approximately 800 percent following the passage of Amendment 64," the 2012 measure that legalized limited recreational sales of marijuana.
Moreover, Carney reveals that the flow has yet to plateau: "We continue to see yearly increases of approximately 12 percent following the second year after passage of Amendment 64."
While Carney isn't comfortable revealing how much marijuana is stored at the DPD's headquarters building at any given time "for security reasons," he confirms that the weed smell in the building can be strong at times, and the fragrance doesn't stay in one place.
"It is marijuana, after all!" he points out. "We attempt to mitigate the odor with HEPA [High Efficiency Particulate Arresting] filters in the property section, where evidence and property are stored, but they can become overwhelmed when we receive large seizures. There is a day or two prior to the marijuana being tested at the lab, when the bulk of the marijuana is stored in an area, that the filters do not have great success."
He adds, "This leads to conditions where the odor can be detected in other parts of the building."
That includes the elevators — which do indeed smell like weed.
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.