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Medical marijuana dispensary joins the chamber of commerce

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Melissa Van Diest says she never thought twice about joining the South Denver Metro Area Chamber of Commerce. After all, she has run a legitimate family business on West Main Street in Littleton for six months now.

And even though that family business happens to involve cultivating and selling marijuana, Van Diest says she never considered that her membership application for The Hemp Center might be refused. "I'm a business person and we run a very professional business," she notes. "This just seemed like the next logical step."

The chamber's governing board agreed with her, and THC was approved for membership.

According to John Brackney, president of the South Denver chamber, the board voted unanimously to approve the membership after only five minutes of discussion. He was a bit surprised by that, he admits, given the conservative background of some of his colleagues and the conventional nature of that part of the metro area. "We decided that it is legal and they looked reputable," he explains. "I think the personal feelings were that many of these are a ruse for people to figure out how to smoke pot. But we don't have proof of that, nor is it our job to go through the nuances of all of our businesses."

Amira Watters, director of membership for the West Chamber, which represents businesses in Jefferson County, says she's surprised that no dispensaries have yet tried to join that organization -- if only for the lobbying benefits. With new state laws finally guiding the fledgling industry, dispensaries are being seen more and more as legitimate businesses, she notes.

Shelly Bisbee, membership sales manager for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, agrees, and says she sees no issue with dispensaries becoming active members of their business communities across the state. Although Steamboat doesn't have any dispensary members, the group wouldn't have a problem with any joining. "If they are a business in our town, we are here to support them," she says. "I mean, they are taxpayers."

Van Diest received her business license from the City of Littleton earlier this week, and says she plans on having an official ribbon-cutting with the chamber in the near future.


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