At a Denver City Council hearing held last Monday to discuss implementing a 5% marijuana sales tax, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey held the floor to claim that medical marijuana dispensaries are a haven for assaults, robberies, and murder.
"We have had 12 homicides related directly to medical marijuana," Morrissey told the council. "We have had over 100 aggravated robberies and home invasions. Many of you probably didn't read about the double-execution-style homicide that we had here in Denver... This is an ugly secret."
Several council members expressed their shock and concern over the DA's previously unheard-of claims. When questioned about the validity of his statistics on Tuesday, though, Morrissey clarified that he'd cited "loose figures" and that none of the homicides actually occurred at a medical marijuana facility. In reality, most of the homicides happened during home invasions, and in some cases, it is uncertain whether marijuana played a role.
Mason Tvert, communications director at MPP, spoke to The Huffington Post to help set the record straight:
"Morrissey's suggestion that the state- and locally-regulated medical marijuana industry is somehow at fault for crimes that occurred entirely outside of its scope is ludicrous and irresponsible. I cannot imagine any other instance in which he would place blame for violent crimes on law-abiding businesses and citizens who have fallen victim to them."
Tvert's claim that dispensaries are not causing violent crime is backed by police statistics. In 2009, the Denver Police Department found that robbery and burglary rates at dispensaries were lower than area banks and liquor stores and on par with those of pharmacies. In 2010, police in Colorado Springs found that robbery and burglary rates at area dispensaries were no higher than at non-marijuana-related businesses. Discussing the findings, Sgt. Darrin Abbink said, "I don't think the data really supports [dispensaries] are more likely to be targeted at this point."
Of the robberies and assaults that have occurred, industry representatives say that medical marijuana dispensaries may only be targeted because current banking laws force them to deal in cash rather than credit.
Tvert continued, "If Morrissey is truly concerned about enhancing public safety, he should be testifying in support of policies that will eliminate the underground marijuana market and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated like alcohol. He should not be resorting to scare tactics and reefer madness."