Local MMJ dispensary robbed

Aug 222011
Authors: Erin Udell

The armed men entered a local medical marijuana dispensary late Sunday afternoon where they held three employees at gunpoint before taking off with marijuana and cash receipts, according to a Fort Collins Police Department press release.

The suspects, 39-year-old Ernie Savannah and 40-year-old Jeremiah Wright, both of Fort Collins, entered the Herbal Wellness Medical Marijuana Dispensary on South College Avenue at 5:08 p.m. wearing masks and dark clothing.

After fleeing the scene in a blue sedan, Wright and Savannah were both taken into custody after engaging police and K-9 dogs in a chase that spanned less than 15 minutes.

“It was a good example of everyone working together to bring both suspects into custody,” said police spokeswoman Rita Davis, who added that a motorist first saw the men entering the dispensary and alerted the police.

This incident comes in the wake of a trying time for dispensaries after a local activist group, the Concerned Fort Collins Citizens (CFCC), recently assembled a petition to force all retail medical marijuana businesses in Fort Collins to shut down.

The petition, which garnered 4,500 signatures in support, was then followed by an Aug. 16 city council meeting where, after hours of citizen participation, council referred the ordinance to be decided on in this coming November election.

According to an Aug. 3 article in the Collegian, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith has supported the dispensary ban since 2009, when a shift in Colorado’s medical marijuana laws led to a lack of discipline among distributors and increase in dispensaries.

“While this case (the robbery) is obviously a Fort Collins incident and they have the specifics on what happened, what occurred with this is consistent with the concerns that we’ve had with the dispensaries,” Smith said in a voicemail to the Collegian.

“It runs counter to the claims that, with the dispensary model, these things won’t and couldn’t happen. Last night’s incident proved that’s incorrect, and it just backs up the increase in marijuana-related incidents that we’ve observed through the case reports since dispensaries were brought in,” he added before saying Fort Collins has seen a 20 percent increase in incidents.

As for this increase, Laura Kriho, director of the Cannabis Therapy Institute, said research has actually shown a decline in crime near dispensaries, citing a report from Americans for Safe Access (ASA).

The report, which was conducted in California, says “Crime statistics and the accounts of local officials surveyed by ASA indicate that crime is actually reduced by the presence of a dispensary. And complaints from citizens and surrounding businesses are either negligible or are significantly reduced with the implementation of local regulations.”

With both sides argued at the Aug. 16 council meeting, the ultimate fate of dispensaries will come in November when the issue is brought to a vote.

News Editor Erin Udell can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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