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Home invasion raises question: does medical marijuana attract crime?

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Photo: Video by kgun9.com

Home invasion raises question: does medical marijuana attract crime?

CREATED Mar 20, 2012

Reporter: Craig Smith

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Before voters approved medical marijuana, law enforcement warned medical marijuana sites would attract crime. 
    
Now it may be the motive in a home invasion Sunday night.
   
Under state law having and growing marijuana is legal for certain patients and caregivers.  But it's a valuable commodity in the illegal world. 
    
Now critics of medical marijuana see an incident Sunday night as example of legal marijuana pulling people in contact with the illegal world of dangerous criminals.  

Before Arizona voters approved medical marijuana, law enforcement warned medical marijuana facilities would attract crime.  Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall was one of them.

"It was a big concern and clearly it was a valid one."
    
It's not 100 percent clear if the bandits who invaded the house knew medical marijuana was grown there with a valid license from the state health department.
    
But when they busted into the home in a quiet Tanque Verde neighborhood, they came away with marijuana, cash and a cell phone that deputies traced to find two of the three suspects.

Barbara LaWall says, "This has happened throughout the country wherever marijuana has become medicalized there have been all kinds of thefts, robberies, strong arm robberies, armed robberies, home invasions, etc."

Kimberly Haslett of the Southwest Arizona Patient Alliance does not see a criminal trend here: "We have 1300 caregivers in the state right now and this is the first reported home invasion so I don't think they are a magnet for crime."

Haslett questions whether the home invaders knew they were busting into a house where marijuana was grown under license.
      
She says caregivers licensed to grow usually keep a low profile and don't advertise what they have.

KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked her: "What I'm wondering is if there's something about how the caregivers become known that would allow someone seeking marijuana for illegal purposes to find them?" 

Haslett: I don't see a correlation in that at all because the only people that know who the caregiver is should be the patient and the Arizona Department of Health Services."

The state health department does publish figures showing how many caregivers are licensed to grow medical marijuana.  The latest figures show 72 for Pima County and the highest concentration--12---is in the Tanque Verde area where the home invasion happened.

 

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