Robert White, Denver police chief, didn't realize he was moving to the marijuana "capital"

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Robert White, Denver's police chief, knew a lot about Denver and Colorado before he came here, but there's one thing that really shocked him: marijuana.

That's right! White, who left his post as police chief in Louisville, Kentucky in October, had no idea that moving to Denver meant he would be living in a marijuana "capital."

White, kicking off an all-day Mini Media Academy event for reporters earlier this week, said in a quick tangent early on in his speech that he did research on Denver before he moved here, but he was unaware that marijuana dispensaries would be so prominent in the Mile High city.

"That one got by me, but that's okay," he said, prompting some laughs from reporters in attendance.

At the end of his talk, in which he talked about how the Denver Police Department is looking to improve communications and offered an update on his initiative to allow officers to apply for transfers or promotions -- he gave reporters a chance to ask some questions. So we asked him to elaborate on his earlier comment regarding the number of dispensaries in Denver.

"I was surprised that there were any dispensaries," he said with a laugh. "I missed that. You know, in my mind -- and I sort of have an opinion about marijuana, but I don't want to get into that, because that's gonna get me into more trouble than I'm already in -- I never envisioned marijuana being remotely legal under any set of circumstances."

White -- who has been a police officer for forty years and spent part of his career in Washington D.C. -- continued: "I always say this to officers.... We all are victims of our environment. You only know what you've been exposed to."

He went on to say it's important to him that officers have a chance to visit other cities and other states to get exposure to different departments and different kinds of training -- something that he thinks Washington D.C. has done well.

"They exposed us to different philosophical ways of doing things other than how D.C. does it," he said, noting that he studied and met different people from other cities that provided useful comparisons and knowledge for him.

And it turns out Denver has given him a different kind of exposure he wasn't anticipating.

"I was a victim of my environment, which is broader than, I think, most members of the police department, because I've never even thought of marijuana dispensaries that would be legal, number one, and even the thought of people using marijuana for medical purposes never crossed my mind," he said. "Of course, I read about it, heard about it, but...coming here, I just never thought that this would sort of be the capital for that kind of activity. So that was an oversight on my part."

And if he had properly done his research?

"It wouldn't have discouraged me from coming here," he said.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary closure threat letters in Colorado echoed in Washington"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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