(NBC NEWS) One thief, posing as a delivery man, pulled a can of bear mace on employees and ransacked their marijuana shop, fleeing in a defensive cloud of “ultra-pepper” spray. Another opened the wall of a dispensary with an ax and attacked the store’s safe with a circular saw. Still another stuck to the basics. He kicked in the front door and pointed his gun at the counterman. An accomplice kicked in the back door and filled a duffel bag with more than $10,000 worth of high-quality cannabis.
For weeks now, the Mile High state has allowed the sale of recreational pot to adults, and so far the Rockies still stand. But crimes like the ones above, all of which occurred in Colorado in the last six months, have produced an acid-drip of anxiety in the industry, highlighting the dangers faced by those hoping to drag America’s most popular illegal drug into the light. Because marijuana remains banned by Congress, banks and security firms deny services to most dispensaries. That leaves them cash-based and vulnerable, a magnet for criminals who like the idea of unguarded counting rooms and shelves lined with lucrative horticulture.
“Everyone in the industry is having nightmares,” says Michael Elliot, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, a powerful young lobby in Colorado. “You hit a 7-Eleven, you’ll get 20 bucks. You hit a dispensary, you’ll get $300,000 on a good day,” adds Mitch Morrissey, District Attorney for Denver. “It’s only a matter of time before someone gets shot.”
Advertisement - story continues below