High crimes: Las Vegas pot shops targeted by criminals

A surge of crimes were reported at marijuana dispensaries in Nevada as the state prepared for the first recreational pot sales, which began on July 1, 2017. (Photo provided)

A News 3 review of crime data in the Las Vegas Valley found there have been at least 26 burglaries and one armed robbery at marijuana dispensaries since January 2016. A surge of crimes were reported as Nevada prepared for the first recreational pot sales, which began on July 1, 2017.

Criminals are getting bolder as they target dozens of pot shops in the Las Vegas area. From an organized heist which led to a police shooting, to an armed robbery with a masked gunman holding a patient hostage briefly.

“They were hitting multiple dispensaries in Southern California on their way through. They made a pleasant stop in Nevada here with us. They got less than $400,” said Robert Casillas, who is the managing director for Cannacopia, a dispensary located in the southwest valley.

According to a review of LVMPD records, Cannacopia has been targeted four times since Jan. 1, 2016.

Casillas said some criminals target dispensaries thinking they’re loaded with cash.

“But what's actually in the vault is ... spare keys ... a lot of nothingness,” said Casillas, adding that most of the money is not stored at the dispensary location. “As the cash is brought in there's a trigger amount ... which is confidential ... it goes out, straight out ... off site."

The fusion center, which includes the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, keeps a close watch on dispensary-related crimes.

“We have a good working relationship with all the dispensaries in the valley ... in fact, I think that's why you see a lot of them beef up their security,” said LVMPD Assistant Sheriff Tom Robert, recently.

Nevada law requires reinforced walls for the safe room and security cameras. However, many of the dispensaries that have been targeted, did not have armed guards on site at the time.

Having armed guards is optional for each business owner.

“The armed issue is a very touchy subject -- you're dealing with a controlled substance still not recognized by the federal government and putting a firearm in conjunction with this business is very risky ... which is why we choose to keep the firearms outside of the premises,” said Casillas.

However, John Mueller of Acres Cannabis said he is not taking any chances.

“We believe in armed security,” said Mueller. “We have panic buttons at every register. We have armed security. 24-hour surveillance. They are not getting out of here with anything.”

Casillas said the Nevada Dispensary Association is working on developing new security guidelines to help protect the new marijuana industry.

“As things become more aggressive I think the industry is going to take higher risks and be more aggressive back,” said Casillas.

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