Marijuana businesses in the Denver, Colorado area have serious concerns about thieves targeting dispensaries. In 2019, 122 burglaries and five robberies were reported, which is up from the prior year that had 120 burglaries but only one robbery. In 2017, there were just 83 burglaries, half the 169 that Denver-based dispensaries reported in 2016. Burglary involves a person illegally entering a building whereas robbery means the perpetrator uses force or fear to take something of value. 

Not only is the crime targeting dispensaries rising, but police noticed a recent escalation, as thieves held multiple employees at gunpoint during a robbery at a Native Roots location last month.

Dispensaries are easy targets because marijuana is still illegal federally, so obtaining banking services is difficult if not impossible for many cannabis companies. That means they have to operate in cash, which requires the need to hire security guards to protect the businesses and their employees.

Security guard using earpiece.

Image source: Getty Images.

Why the problem isn't going away

This isn't just a Denver problem. It's a risk that all dispensaries and pot shops face in states where it's legal to sell pot, either for medicinal reasons or recreationally. The only solutions are to legalize marijuana federally or pass legislation allowing cannabis companies to access banking. That's what the SAFE Banking Act hopes to achieve, but there are no guarantees that the bill will pass, especially as it faces some heavy opposition.

In the meantime, marijuana stocks like Green Thumb Industries (GTBIF 1.58%), Acreage Holdings (ACRGF) and Curaleaf Holdings (CURLF 2.70%) that make millions in revenue may need to spend even more in safeguarding their employees and their assets. That means more expenses in an industry that's already drowning in high costs and where many companies remain unprofitable.