Booming marijuana industry puts squeeze on warehouse space for Toys for Tots

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DENVER -- It's the time of year when the Denver Area Toys for Tots program should be collecting toys to hand out to less fortunate children for the holidays.

But this year, it hasn't been able to find an adequate warehouse to store the toys donated for the program.

It needs the space from now through December. In the past, there has been enough vacant warehouses that it could find a company willing to donate the space for a couple of months.

But not this year. The vacant warehouses have been taken up by the booming marijuana industry.

"Last year, we raised 140,000 toys and helped 96,000 less fortunate children here in Denver locally," Toys for Tots spokesman Sgt. Phillip Sena said.

The U.S. Marine Corps Reserves runs the Toys for Tots program. They collect, categorize and distribute toys to children who might not get a toy otherwise.

It's a huge task that requires a lot of space, like a vacant warehouse.

"We're still looking and hoping for the right spot," Sena said.

The booming industrial real estate market is the problem. Realtors said warehouse leases are triple what they were a few holiday seasons ago, largely the result of marijuana grow operations snapping up vacant space.

"There's warehouses that were vacant getting bought up. I totally get the business aspect. Consumer vs. charity ... it's getting a little tougher for us to find space," Sena said.

Ideally, Toys for Tots managers hope they can find someone to donate a 25,000-square-foot space. If the program has to, it will pay, but that will mean less money for holiday toys.

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