Medical marijuana: More than 52 grows could still be at risk from city council, attorney says

marijuana plants in pots cropped.JPG
Yesterday, the Denver City Council attempted to tackle medical marijuana regulations that MMJ attorney Warren Edson initially feared could close 137 of 150 MMJ grows in the city. The current measure, which will be voted upon by council a week from today, is no longer so draconian. But Edson says a third, and perhaps more, of the city's grow are still at risk over regs being driven mainly by land-use debates, not problems with existing businesses.

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Warren Edson.
Edson attended the hearing from 3 p.m. until after 9 p.m. -- and while plenty of stakeholders were heard from during that span, "there was a surprising lack of regular citizens and patients," he says. "I didn't hear complaints from regular old citizens saying these businesses are bad neighbors, and I didn't hear indications from council that they've been getting complaints. Most of the people who spoke were either with MMCs or in real estate."

From Edson's perspective, an amendment offered by councilmembers Chris Nevitt and Judy Montero "that appeared out of nowhere" was a positive development, since it should allow for "a smoother transfer of ownership for those businesses that relied on a grandfather clause." That was important, since Edson says previous language requiring no change in ownership of grows since last summer could have excluded the vast majority of grows from grandfathering.

Nonetheless, he notes, "there are still 52 grows in question -- and they kind of downplayed that. They said they weren't sure how many of them were real or speculative, but as Charlie Brown pointed out, those are still 52 potential businesses, and he said he hadn't become a city councilman to close viable businesses that have been operating legally."

And the real number of grows threatened could be more than 52. The most recent draft of the measure had narrowed the definition of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, which must be at least 1,000 feet away from MMJ operations, to medical offices in zoned buildings. However, Edson allows, "they said they were going back to the drawing board on the definition even though they approved the restriction. And this is another of those things where they're not sure how many businesses it might affect. I'm hoping they'll have the answer before next Tuesday's vote."

Moreover, Edson continues, "the fees are still crazy. They're going to charge $3,000 for an infused product manufacturing license for the city and $3,000 for a grow license, where the state only charges $1,250. And despite questions from [councilman and mayoral candidate Doug] Linkhart, there wasn't an answer as to why it's more than double what the state's charging. Are they planning on doing twice as many inspections? Are their employees costing them twice as much? Are their employees twice as bad? Why would the city charge twice as much to inspect the same facilities?

"The state seems to be saying that they're getting more in fees than it's costing them in expenditures, and yet the city doubles the price of the licenses? I didn't think they were supposed to be trying to make money off licenses..."

Another rub: a clause that says for so-called optional premises cultivation operations, or OPCOs, to be grandfathered, growing must have been underway no later than January 1, 2011 -- "and last night, we heard from someone that's going to penalize," Edson maintains. "They spent the past year making the place perfect, going above and beyond, following all the zoning rules and waiting properly for inspectors instead of going ahead and starting to grow. And now they could be punished for doing things the right way. If they'd done things half-assed, they would have been fine, but now they look like they're going to be bit in the butt."

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A file photo of Susan Barnes-Gelt.
Also in attendance at the session was Susan Barnes-Gelt, a former city council member who's now a paid consultant for Zeppelin Development. In conversations with Westword, numerous members of the medical marijuana community have suggested that Zeppelin has been the driving force behind many of the council's attempts to restrict or limit grows, and Barnes-Gelt hasn't been silent on the topic. In an October 2010 op-ed for the Denver Post, she argued that the council's grow policy could impact "emerging neighborhoods" such as River North, where Zeppelin Development owns a twenty-acre TAXI site.

Adding to the confusion was an appearance by Curt LeRossignol, who defended his decision to lease space to MMJ growers in a building along Brighton Boulevard "that's been a concern of Ms. Barnes-Gelt and the Zeppelin group," Edson says. At that point, Brown and Montero presented dueling letters about whether or not LeRossignol had or hadn't threatened to reconsider donating land for a park if the growers were expelled.

Amid this battle of developers, council approved a two-year review of grandfathered grows, after narrowly defeating Linkhart's attempt to stretch the time period to four years.

In the end, Edson believes the latest bill "is better than it was -- and it's nice to see Ms. Montero work toward a compromise on fixing the license transfer. But because the state is developing its rules for the industry, it's forcing people to formulate and re-formulate their businesses. That's what's doing on at the Department of Revenue right now. They're saying, 'This works' or 'This doesn't work, and you guys have to rework what you're doing' -- and that could dramatically affect grandfathering.

"It's not all gloom and doom. It's a step in the right direction. It's just not a step far enough, especially given that the vote's next week."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana code proposed by Denver City Council contradictory?: Read bill here."

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15 comments
Toosmart4theirowngood
Toosmart4theirowngood

The original proposed revision would have impacted River Rock Wellness at their location in RiNo, but somehow the new one doesn't effect them?

AncientMedicine
AncientMedicine

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government -- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."

- Patrick Henry

sporobolus
sporobolus

i don't have strong feelings about MMJ, so it's more of a conceptual issue to me; but i'm really grateful to Westword and others who are using this issue to show how big developers have an unequal say in Denver politics; please keep up the work on that front -- i'd love to see some powerful reporting that would help level the playing field

seabourne
seabourne

To understand medicinal cannabis and adverse effects of prohibition check outhttp://activistcat.com/An easy place to sign petitionsNow includes - Granny's List - 420 pages of cannabis studies free to download

seabourne
seabourne

One would think the DEA and ONDCP has doctors or scientists on staff. Sadly this is not so - we would like to see that changed and believe it is a step to change.

It makes no sense that the DEA and ONDCP are run solely by law enforcement officials. These individuals have no medical or scientific training. It is obvious they do not take any scientific studies into consideration. Someone in charge of a drug policy should have scientific knowledge about drugs or at the very least medical training in medicines and drugs. The science done over the last 40 years needs to be taken into consideration, not simply ignored. Drug policy should be based on science not idealogy.

Please read and sign the letter petition to appoint a doctor or scientist to the DEA and ONDCP.http://www.change.org/petition...

From all those still fighting for Medicinal Use - Thank you!

Guest
Guest

where's the "dislike" button?

Robert
Robert

NO!!! ABOLISH BOTH AGENCIES, STARTING WITH THE DEA!

Guest
Guest

I can copy and paste too...

Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?Would you like to take a moment to register seabourne?

Please quit spamming. Your "comments" don't really pertain to the article and I've read these same comments too many times. Thanks.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Yes, it's auto-reply time. I will be away from my Westword desk until Tuesday, February 22 -- so I wanted to leave you with some options.

If you are commenting on an article, column or review, and would consider letting us use your note as a letter to the editor, please forward it to Patricia.Calhoun@westword.com.

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Otherwise, I'll do my best to get back to you upon my return. My best to you and yours.

Robert
Robert

Welcome to the brave new world of no negativity -- get with the goodthink!

seabourne
seabourne

I hope this reaches Crandle, I am guessing you are on the staff of Denver Westward Blogs. I left the following mesage below on the webpage. Please advise. Will I now be banned. I thought I had registered, and that was why I was permitted to comment. I apologize for that also. Please understand I never try to abuse or spam posting opportunities. I am merely a broke activist trying to educate all those interested and trying desparately to make a change nationwide. The Denver Westward Blogs truely does reach interested parties, for that I have been very grateful. I was trying to keep the posts concise and to the point, not as a spam. I have felt blessed having a way to reach interested parties. Even the City of Denver found activistcat.com through your website. If I wasn't reaching people I would be posting.

Message left on the website:

I apologize, I never meant it as spamming, something I too much dislike. I am an activist working hard for medical marijuana nationwide. Each time I post here the response is noticable from signtures on the petition, and visitors to the website. Apparently many in your area are interested in learning more about the subject of medical marijuana. They tend to spend hours on the website learning. I am much encouraged when people want to learn more about the subject. If I could afford an ad I would leap at the opportunity. However I promote and offer the education with on my own time and dime. I am not exactly well off as I have been a patient in need for many years and live where we do not have the blessing of medicinal use, and my health does not allow me to work full time. These posts bring people from all walks of life,including health care officials and departments, city government officials, legislatures, and the general public. I have considered myself fortunate to reach the people with the opportunity to make such posts. 32 1/2 hours have been spent by several individuals (more than have posted comments here) from this post alone so far and if the stats hold normal many of them will also return to learn more and perhaps sign other petitions. And more will continue to visit the site for the first time or sign the petition. I have used the same post because it seems to be effective to reach interested parties.

Again I apologize for the appearance of being a spammer.  I honestly am just trying to reach those than want information on medicinal marijuana and would like  to make changes at the federal level. I have registered.

Please advise, I do not want to upset anyone. I will quit posting if you perfer.

Sincerely,Seabourne Day

This was an email response, I did not realize it would post here. I am trying to reach crandle, feel free to delete this post. I only left it in case you do not ge the email. - Sincerely

________________________________

seabourne
seabourne

I apologize, I never meant it as spamming, something I too much dislike. I am an activist working hard for medical marijuana nationwide. Each time I post here the response is noticable from signtures on the petition, and visitors to the website. Apparently many in your area are interested in learning more about the subject of medical marijuana. They tend to spend hours on the website learning. I am much encouraged when people want to learn more about the subject. If I could afford an ad I would leap at the opportunity. However I promote and offer the education with on my own time and dime. I am not exactly well off as I have been a patient in need for many years and live where we do not have the blessing of medicinal use, and my health does not allow me to work full time. These posts bring people from all walks of life,including health care officials and departments, city government officials, legislatures, and the general public. I have considered myself fortunate to reach the people with the opportunity to make such posts. 32 1/2 hours have been spent by several individuals (more than have posted comments here) from this post alone so far and if the stats hold normal many of them will also return to learn more and perhaps sign other petitions. And more will continue to visit the site for the first time or sign the petition. I have used the same post because it seems to be effective to reach interested parties.

Again I apologize for the appearance of being a spammer. I honestly am just trying to reach those than want information on medicinal marijuana and trying to make changes at the federal level. I have registered.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Crandle, thanks for trying to keep everyone on topic. Makes reading the comments much more interesting.

calhounp
calhounp

crandle is not a westword staffer or contributor.

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