OUR VIEW: Pot stores less dangerous than banks, pharmacies (poll)
Another day, another violent gun-in-the-face bank robbery. It happens all the time in Colorado Springs.
Any genre of business that attracts violent crime should be a concern to city officials, who should consider public safety the highest priority of local government. Few crimes are more violent than robberies. A robbery, unlike a theft or a burglary, involves a perpetrator who threatens violence against a victim. The robber typically shows up at a business, points a gun in the direction of an employee and makes demands such as “all the cash in the drawer.”
Concern about crimes associated with medical marijuana businesses have been among the top arguments of politicians who want to destroy the trade by taxing and regulating it into oblivion.
But how dangerous is a medical marijuana store? For someone at or near one of these stores, what’s the likelihood of a masked criminal showing up with a gun and demanding money or drugs?
Not likely at all. Based on data provided to The Gazette’s editorial board by Sergeant Darrin Abink, banks and pharmacies are far greater targets for robberies than are medical marijuana stores. Abink’s research found that robbers had held up banks 15 times this year in Colorado Springs as of Tuesday morning. That number was provided to The Gazette moments before a man pulled out a gun and robbed ENT Federal Credit Union, bringing the number to 16.
How many robbers have held up medical marijuana stores this year? Zero. Score card on robberies for 2011: banks 16; marijuana stores 0.
But let’s compare drug stores with drug stores, as in medical marijuana stores with standard pharmacies that deal in destructive hard drugs, such as hydropmorphone — an opioid that mimics the effects of heroin. So far this year we’ve seen three armed robberies of pharmacies in Colorado Springs. The number of marijuana store robberies in 2011? Zero. Score card on robberies for 2011: pharmacies 3; marijuana stores 0. So, when it comes to violent crime, marijuana stores are not a high concern. Pharmacies and banks are far more dangerous for customers and employees.
When it comes to burglaries — property crimes involving unlawful entry — marijuana stores don’t fare as well. Few criminals burglarize banks, because they are nearly impenetrable after they close and criminals know banks have sophisticated security systems. The same is true of pharmacies. As mom-and-pop store-front businesses, medical marijuana stores are easy prey.
(Vote in poll to the right in red type. Must vote to see results. Thanks!)
Burglaries — unlike robberies — are mostly a problem of the store owner, who loses product and incurs the costs of damage caused by forced entry. Unlike a robbery, a burglary doesn’t put the lives of customers and employees at gun-point risk. The owner has full incentive to enhance security, which requires investment in an alarm system, sophisticated surveillance equipment and reinforced windows and doors.
The chances of marijuana stores making the investments to protect their inventories from property crimes are greatly reduced when city and state officials use excessive fees to extort their capital. Today, members of the City Council are considering a one-time $2,200 application fee for medical marijuana businesses and annual $1,800 licensing fees for all forms of medical marijuana businesses.
If city officials are worried about crime, they will encourage marijuana stores to beef up after-hours security. They will help store owners afford better security by opting against excessive fees that are far greater than anything paid by giant banks and pharmacies — businesses that generate much more violent crime.