Pot-shop cameras foil burglary ring

Burglars were pillaging Pagosa Springs businesses until they hit Bill Delany’s medical marijuana dispensary, Good Earth Meds, in late June, authorities say. They made off with some marijuana-infused tinctures and edible products, but they also were caught on videotape – providing police the break they needed to find men suspected of stealing from 19 Archuleta County businesses. Authorities credit the gang’s capture to surveillance cameras Delany had installed to comply with tough new state rules for marijuana shops.

“It’s good that the state mandates all this video. This is the first evidence they’ve had on these guys,” Delany said. Other marijuana shop owners and customers have opposed the video camera rule, both for their expense and for privacy concerns. Police arrested four suspects – Allan Vanness, 19; Fermin Y. Villareal Jr., 26; Dominique Swanson, 27; and Angelo Rodger Rivard, 23 – on June 30. Vanness and Villareal are charged with 18 counts related to burglary, theft and trespass, while Swanson and Rivard face six counts of burglary or theft.

Court hearings for the men were scheduled for this week and into early September. During the investigation, Delany admitted breaking county rules for marijuana shops by leaving inventory unsecured after hours. Ironically, Delany said, he was distracted by a July 1 deadline to bring his business into compliance with the new state rules. Archuleta County commissioners fined Delany $250 Tuesday, a small amount because he voluntarily reported his infraction and helped police catch the suspects.

He’s satisfied with the fine and eager to support the new state rules and the squad of inspectors the state has to police the industry. County Attorney Todd Starr and Delany met with an inspector from the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, and Starr spoke up for Delany. “But for the cooperation of Mr. Delany, a band of burglars would still be menacing Archuleta County,” Starr said in an email to the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Delany is not facing any state sanctions, said Julie Postlethwait, spokeswoman for the state marijuana division.

He’s happy that local and state regulators didn’t throw the book at him. “I just think it’s great that they worked together on this, the county and the state,” Delany said. Delany began using medical marijuana after other treatments for his Crohn’s disease failed. He said he opened his shop to help others with true medical needs, and he has spoken up in favor of tight regulations in order to make his industry more legitimate.

Not every marijuana shop owner shares Delany’s opinion. Several of them have sued the state in Denver District Court to overturn rules they say are discriminatory and too burdensome. Postlethwait said she hears complaints about the expense and heavy paperwork burdens the rules impose on shop owners, but overall, people are willing to work with state inspectors. “The majority of the people I talk to are fine with the rules and our steps toward legitimizing the industry,” she said.

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