Oct 242011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

With the mail-in election deadline just one week away, the fate of medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins continues to hang in the balance.

If passed, Question 300 will close the doors on the city’s 20 dispensaries, which opened since the 2009 court decision to partially legalize marijuana. This would push the system back to the patient-caregiver model in which red-card holders go to either the black market or a designated grower for their marijuana.

According to data from the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office, there has been a 20 percent increase in incidents involving marijuana throughout the county between 2005 and 2010. At the same time, a 40 percent increase was found within the Fort Collins city’s police records.

“I can tell you unequivocally that it is absolutely an outstandingly high rate,” said Sheriff Justin Smith.

He explained the data was collected by a crime analyst’s “word search” method, in which police records were searched for any reference of marijuana. Though not perfect, Smith said it was a fair examination of the data.

“No method will detect everything,” he said.

Not everyone remains convinced the method of data collection is the best indicator of a crime increase for the complicated issue.

Paul Stretesky, an associate professor and criminologist at the University of Colorado-Denver, has been one of the leaders in the research field on the dispensary issue. While studying the effects of the dispensary boom in Denver, he and his team found there is much more to the crime component of the long-lasting debate.

“We found that dispensaries are more likely to be located in areas that already have a slightly higher amount of crime,” Stretesky said in an email to the Collegian.

He said most communities are adamantly opposed to having the dispensaries near their homes, so they are forced into the less-appealing areas of town.

Additionally, he explained it is expected for areas surrounding dispensaries to have slightly higher rates of crime. He drew a parallel between marijuana theft and a case in 2010, when an iPad was stolen from a man leaving a shopping center in Denver.

“Expensive and small items are targets for robbery,” he said. “I don’t see a call to make iPads illegal.”

Regarding the higher marijuana crime rates and reports, Stretesky said police presence is likely more focused in those areas where crime is already higher. From there, it is not surprising that the reports including marijuana have increased.

“You would have to be careful about the types of crime you look at when doing a study of crime and dispensaries,” he said.

Sheriff Smith said the data is reliable and the discrepancy between the county and city indicates that there has been a marked increase in crime.

After more than 7,000 people signed a petition enacted by the Concerned Fort Collins Citizens group, city council members decided to leave it up to voters in August.

Mail-in ballots can be picked up and delivered at 200 W. Oak St. in Fort Collins. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 1.

“I think both sides are anxious for the campaign to be over,” said Bob Powell, a chairman with the Concerned Fort Collins Citizens.

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Your ballot

Ballots were mailed Oct. 11

You must have registered in the last election

If you have since moved, pick up your ballot at the courthouse, 200 W. Oak St.
Visit www.larimer.org/elections for more information

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