Robert White, Denver police chief, didn't realize he was moving to the marijuana "capital"

Thumbnail image for police chief robert white small.jpg
Robert White
Robert White, Denver's police chief, knew a lot about Denver and Colorado before he came here, but there's one thing that really shocked him: marijuana.

That's right! White, who left his post as police chief in Louisville, Kentucky in October, had no idea that moving to Denver meant he would be living in a marijuana "capital."

White, kicking off an all-day Mini Media Academy event for reporters earlier this week, said in a quick tangent early on in his speech that he did research on Denver before he moved here, but he was unaware that marijuana dispensaries would be so prominent in the Mile High city.

Police Chief Robert White, Mini Media Academy.JPG
Sam Levin
Police Chief Robert White at DPD's Mini Media Academy yesterday.
"That one got by me, but that's okay," he said, prompting some laughs from reporters in attendance.

At the end of his talk, in which he talked about how the Denver Police Department is looking to improve communications and offered an update on his initiative to allow officers to apply for transfers or promotions -- he gave reporters a chance to ask some questions. So we asked him to elaborate on his earlier comment regarding the number of dispensaries in Denver.

"I was surprised that there were any dispensaries," he said with a laugh. "I missed that. You know, in my mind -- and I sort of have an opinion about marijuana, but I don't want to get into that, because that's gonna get me into more trouble than I'm already in -- I never envisioned marijuana being remotely legal under any set of circumstances."

White -- who has been a police officer for forty years and spent part of his career in Washington D.C. -- continued: "I always say this to officers.... We all are victims of our environment. You only know what you've been exposed to."

He went on to say it's important to him that officers have a chance to visit other cities and other states to get exposure to different departments and different kinds of training -- something that he thinks Washington D.C. has done well.

"They exposed us to different philosophical ways of doing things other than how D.C. does it," he said, noting that he studied and met different people from other cities that provided useful comparisons and knowledge for him.

And it turns out Denver has given him a different kind of exposure he wasn't anticipating.

"I was a victim of my environment, which is broader than, I think, most members of the police department, because I've never even thought of marijuana dispensaries that would be legal, number one, and even the thought of people using marijuana for medical purposes never crossed my mind," he said. "Of course, I read about it, heard about it, but...coming here, I just never thought that this would sort of be the capital for that kind of activity. So that was an oversight on my part."

And if he had properly done his research?

"It wouldn't have discouraged me from coming here," he said.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary closure threat letters in Colorado echoed in Washington"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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35 comments
charlie_oscar
charlie_oscar

Translation:  Kentucky has a big weed crop but the laws and enforcement is draconian for simple posession of less than 1 oz. The Chief is suprised that there are not RAIDS going on daily - as they would be doing in Kentucky.  Reason?  Denver is not the bible belt...simple as that...Denver is the hub of world class skiing...and it is the hub for CSU...Micro breweries...Music festivals and a general attitude that the cops have to keep it real or they will be replaced. Coloradonains will not tolerate "southern fried chciken style policing"

Hatty Marris
Hatty Marris

just kidding. this isn't California, right?

Hatty Marris
Hatty Marris

i guess that would depend on how many starbucks are in Denver...

just0053
just0053

I think regional Police have a higher probability of understanding regional issues and expectations of the People. How can Colorado be the 'capital' of marijuana and this man, 40 years experience in law enforcement, have had no idea we have more dispensaries than starbucks?

Anna Gingher
Anna Gingher

I think Oaksterdam would be the REAL marijuana capital, but CO is pretty close. It's mostly Boulder, however you'll find more dispensaries around the DEN area. It's the only cure for hangovers, migranes, helps me deal with my asthma... etc... don't knock it til you've tried it! We're harmless and professionals like everyone else.

Anna Gingher
Anna Gingher

I think Oaksterdam would be the REAL marijuana capital, but CO is pretty close. It's mostly Boulder, however you'll find more dispensaries around the DEN area. It's the only cure for hangovers, migranes, helps me deal with my asthma... etc... don't knock it til you've tried it! We're harmless and professionals like everyone else.

luistoro
luistoro

Great to know the selection committee did such a thorough job asking the candidate about how he would approach key law enforcement challenges in our city.

 

Jonah Fox
Jonah Fox

What with the generally lenient laws and availability, it's hard to find anyone in Denver ( let alone Colorado in general) who doesn't smoke or have an MMJ card. Personally, I'm not a smoker. Never suited me, although with my palsy, I'm eligible for a medical marijuana card. I'm not saying its a bad thing, and if it's from illegal sources or used in a harmful manner, it quite certainly isn't a good thing. It's just interesting. I would have to agree that Colorado, Denver and Boulder especially, is a haven for smokers.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Colorado is so slandered with the Marijuana stigma that other States' highway patrols and drug interdiction teams claim a Colorado License Plate on a vehicle is one of the indicators of drug activity, and use it to instigate roadside stops / searches of vehicles.

 

Much like Colombians flying into the U$A are instantly suspected of cocaine trafficking.

 

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

Via online gambling , I communicate w/ people from all over the nation of both genders and of all ages and races .

When I mention I live in Denver ,

8 times out of 10 , I will receive some kind of marijuana reference .

We are KNOWN more for our fine cannabis than we are the Denver Broncos or the Rocky Mountains , anymore . I do .  I field more questions pertaining to bud than everything else put together !

Am I complaining ?

Not even .......

Would prefer to discuss that rather than the recent shootings , Columbine , or JonBenet ,

for that matter ....

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

 @DonkeyHotay 

" Bad boys ! Bad boys ! "

" Whatcha' gonna do ? "

" Whatcha' gonna do when they come for yooooou ??.... "

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

 @DonkeyHotay May many tons of fine Colorado cannabis make their way safely to the needy, cannabis-deprived peoples of America for all time to come!

brianafrederick
brianafrederick

 @Juan_Leg But....you're talking to people via online gambling. Of course they're just stoners sitting at home thinking about weed and porn. When I speak with people - as I do on a regular basis by means of real communication - the mountains are often mentioned. White water rafting too oddly enough. Our housing boom gone sour, skiing, The Stanley Hotel...lots of stuff. You're right though, nobody cares to talk about shootings ever, mainly because they - just like us - just sweep it under the rug, not learn a thing from it, pretend to be a community for a few months and then just continue on with our drug fueled mountain escapades. 

luistoro
luistoro

 @DonkeyHotay  Fair point. I meant it's a challenge for cops to learn not to bust legal marijuana operations.

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

 @brianafrederick 

I forked out over $500 to play many pro league teams .

And your brilliant conclusion of a someone buying into in NFL  leagues

to talk marijuana , is preposterous  !

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