DENVER — The majority of medical marijuana dispensary owners in Colorado have criminal records, and 18 percent were previously convicted of felonies, Drug Enforcement Administration statistics show.
The crimes the dispensary owners were arrested for include sexual assault, weapons violations and burglary. Four of the owners were previously arrested and investigated on charges of murder and attempted murder.
KUSA-TV reported the DEA's findings Wednesday.
"This business seems to have an inappropriate number of people with criminal backgrounds involved as business owners," said Kevin Merrill, assistant special agent in charge for the Denver field division of the DEA.
The DEA said its statistics show that 28 percent medical marijuana dispensary owners have criminal records for drug offenses, compared with 8 percent of the state's population who were previously arrested for crimes.
"I would be hard-pressed to find any other business group where their members have so many criminal violations, arrests and convictions," Merrill said.
The DEA developed its statistics through public records, property records, and the names of marijuana dispensary owners. The DEA then ran background checks on the business owners.
Some of the dispensary owners with criminal records will not be able to operate their businesses after Sunday, when new state regulations go into effect barring anyone with a felony conviction or sentence in the past five years from obtaining an operating license for a dispensary.
A new Colorado law sets up the first-ever state licenses for marijuana sales, so even if a current dispensary owner has local business permits, the business could be forced to close if the owners don't meet new requirements. Marijuana advocates say lawsuits are likely when businesses are asked to closed.
The new regulations also give cities and counties the option of banning the businesses, and some municipalities already are considering doing so.
Brian Vicente, the executive director of Sensible Colorado, a marijuana advocacy group, said the businesses owners don't think it's fair that they should continue to be punished for crimes when they've served their time for their offenses.
"A lot of people have been convicted of felonies or any crime and they have done their time, they've paid their debt to society and now want to move on and work in this field and aren't able to do so."
Posted: 07/29/10 11:10 AM
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