Pubdate: Fri, 19 Mar 2010
Source: Honolulu Advertiser (HI)
Page: A8
Copyright: 2010 The Associated Press
Cited: California Police Chiefs Association
Cited: NORML
Bookmark: (Cannabis - United States)


Medical Marijuana Linked to Robberies, Shootings, Murders

SAN FRANCISCO -- Patients, growers and clinics in some of the 14 
states that allow medical marijuana are falling victim to robberies, 
home invasions, shootings and even murders at the hands of pot thieves.

There have been dozens of cases in recent months alone. The issue 
received more attention this week after a prominent medical marijuana 
activist in a Seattle suburb nearly killed a robber in a shootout -- 
the eighth time thieves had targeted his pot-growing operation.

Critics say the heists and holdups prove that marijuana and crime are 
inseparable, though marijuana advocates contend that further 
legalization is the answer. News of crimes related to medical 
marijuana comes at an awkward time for California and Washington 
advocates who are pushing to pass ballot measures to allow all 
adults, not just the chronically ill, to possess the drug.

"Whenever you are dealing with drugs and money, there is going to be 
crime. If people think otherwise, they are very naive," said Scott 
Kirkland, the police chief in El Cerrito, Calif., and a vocal critic 
of his state's voter-approved medical marijuana law.

"People think if we decriminalize it, the Mexican cartels and Asian 
gangs are going to walk away. That's not the world I live in," Kirkland said.

Activists and law enforcement officials say it is difficult to get an 
accurate picture of crimes linked to medical marijuana because many 
victims don't notify the police for fear of drawing unwanted 
attention to their own activities. But the California Police Chiefs 
Association used press clippings to compile 52 medical 
marijuana-related crimes - including seven homicides - from April 
2008 to March 2009.

There also is plenty of anecdotal evidence:

* A man in Washington state was beaten to death last week with what 
is believed to be a crowbar after confronting an intruder on the 
rural property where he was growing cannabis to treat painful back problems.

* Medical marijuana activist Steve Sarich exchanged gunfire with 
intruders in his home Monday in Kirkland, Wash., shooting and 
critically injuring one of them.

* In California, a boy was shot to death in 2007 while allegedly 
trying to steal a cancer patient's pot plants from his home garden.

* A respected magazine editor was killed that same year by robbers 
who targeted his Northern California home for marijuana and money 
after hearing that his teenage son was growing pot with a doctor's approval.

* Robbers killed a security guard at a Los Angeles medical marijuana 
dispensary in 2008. Police and marijuana opponents say the violence 
is further proof that the proliferation of medical marijuana carries 
problems that would worsen if pot is legalized or decriminalized.

Pot activists say the opposite: that prohibition breeds crime and 
legalization would solve the problem. They also say the robberies 
have exposed the need for more regulation of medical marijuana laws.

"The potential for people to get ripped off and for people to use 
guns to have to defend themselves against robbers is very real," said 
Keith Stroup, founder and chief legal counsel for the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "But it's nothing to 
do with medical marijuana. It is to do with the failure of states to 
regulate this."
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