VISTA — The topic of medical marijuana access was a discussion item during a recent Vista City Council meeting. City Council directed city staff to research medical marijuana delivery as well as a “limited number” of medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits.
As part of this, Assistant City Manager Aly Zimmermann introduced Capt. Hank Turner of the San Diego County Sherriff’s Department. Turner is actively involved with marijuana enforcement regulations and addressed the council at its last meeting. He was on hand to share his observations regarding the impacts of retail dispensaries particularly in the communities of Colorado.
Turner began first by sharing that he serves the Santee, Lakeside, Grossmont, and Cuyamaca Community College District areas. However, before this, he was lieutenant of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and in charge of the narcotics task force. According to Turner, during that timeframe, he was sent as a representative to Colorado and served as a liaison with Washington state to become more familiar with marijuana laws. Turner said his role was to dispel some of the myths and to find out the facts.
“In looking at Colorado and in looking at Washington state, every municipality that authorizes it, whether it be medical or recreational marijuana, they still have a black market,” Turner said. “And there was a lot of advocacy that if we legalized it, we wouldn’t have a black market anymore.”
Turner then focused on the Denver metropolitan area. In his estimation, there were 1,054 marijuana-related businesses in this locale.
“Colorado has seen a steady increase in illegal marijuana and sales outside the state,” he said.
Deputy Major John Franklin wanted to know from Turner if he had any specific observations about the types of criminal activities that prey on these businesses and if it at all impacted other businesses nearby.
Turner explained that while there were no substantial crimes related to proximity issues, he did point out that Colorado did not track any marijuana-related crime before it was legalized in 2012. The state was unable to confirm an increase since there was no baseline for comparison.
“One of the things that they have seen since they’ve gone to legalization — and a stat that I found very interesting — is 15 percent of all burglaries in the Denver metropolitan area are related to marijuana businesses because it’s a large cash business,” Turner said.
He wanted the City Council to know that be it sales or growing, because there is cash involved, many individuals can become victims of burglaries.
Councilman Joe Green thanked Turner for his presentation. However, Green said he believed if everyone worked together with the medical marijuana industry, it could very well help cut down on the black market. Green said he was elected to represent the people of Vista, and he is aware that many Vista voters wanted medical marijuana storefronts.