Flood of bud

Looters, paperwork-evaders and other outlaws in the wild wet

Camille at the North Boulder Wellness Center
Photo by Cecelia Gilboy

This story is part of Our Road to Recovery, our coverage of the 2013 Boulder County floods.

You didn’t see Boulder stores being looted on the news.

But at around 2 p.m. last Thursday, when flooding had forced many businesses to close, two individuals wearing hoodies and sunglasses broke into the North Boulder Wellness Center, according to administrative manager Camille, who asked that her last name not be revealed.

While the alarm blared, the suspects smashed through a glass door with a hammer. Their frantic attempted robbery was caught on camera, because dispensaries are required by law to have state-of-the-art surveillance systems.

The one office door that didn’t legally need to be locked and could have been opened with the turn of a knob was still kicked in instead. But it didn’t do the would-be robbers any good because, by law, all the marijuana was locked in a state-approved safe because the store was closed.

Dispensary security measures are mandated by multiple Colorado laws, which are subject to frequent change, and not all laws seem to make sense. For instance, if you want to put a fish tank in your waiting room wall like a fancy doctor’s office? That’s allowed — provided your glass tank isn’t transparent.

Despite the many precautions, dispensaries are still often robbery targets. Many people assume that they have cash on hand because marijuana is federally illegal, and therefore, dispensaries can’t have bank accounts.

Despite this fact, the robbers during the flood didn’t find any cash. Instead, the security system immediately alerted police to the break-in.

Camille was weathering the flood at home when she got the call about the family business.

“I ran out of there practically in my pajamas,” she says. “They (police) couldn’t get into the DVR to watch the tapes.”

Colorado law requires the DVR to be protected by codes, she explains.

Police collected a dropped lighter as evidence. They’re conducting fingerprinting and DNA analysis, Camille says, as well as enhancing the images captured by the cameras.

“When I open or close the store now, I’m nervous,” she says. “I lock the door immediately.”

Employees are taking extra security precautions, too.

The smashed glass door to the dispensary room was replaced, but Camille quickly realized that the new door was illegal.

Doors to dispensary rooms in Colorado cannot be transparent. The old door was custom glass.

The new door, to be compliant with regulations, had to be sprayed to make the glass appear foggy.

The vast array of weed laws also caused several other flooded MMJ businesses to struggle with abiding by the laws during the recent crisis.

The dispensaries in Lyons were inaccessible, if not under water.

One of these businesses knew it needed revenue. It had plenty of dry product at its Boulder warehouse, and Colorado dispensaries are allowed to wholesale 30 percent of their inventory to other dispensaries.

But you’re only allowed to sell marijuana — even wholesale pounds of it — from your retail location. If your retail location is under water as was the case in Lyons, that isn’t possible.

Also, to complete a wholesale transaction, you must fill out paperwork about the product you want to move from your warehouse, send that paperwork to the state for approval, drive the product to your store, complete paperwork indicating which roads the pounds will travel to the purchasing store, and send that paperwork to the state for approval as well.

Piles of paperwork weren’t the only problem for Lyons’ marijuana businesses.

David Threlfall, the owner of Trill Alternatives, is looking at $100,000 to $150,000 in damages, he says. One of his warehouses lost power — a problem for plants whose lives depend on specific light cycles.

Then the water started rising, Threlfall says.

The plants needed to be rescued. But any movement of marijuana plants, like the finished product, is carefully regulated by mountains of time consuming paperwork. Impending travel routes would have had to be submitted before the plants could leave the building and hundreds of different strains would have had to be accounted for individually.

Luckily, Threlfall’s business is insured. He sees the flood as an opportunity to make his warehouse cleaner and more immaculate than ever before. He hopes his business will receive some of the federal aid money.

“We [dispensaries] should be treated like everybody else,” he says. “We pay more than our share of taxes.”

At this point, it is still unclear if dispensaries affected by the flood will be able to receive federal aid money due to its illegal federal status.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

This story is part of Our Road to Recovery, our coverage of the 2013 Boulder County floods.