Medical marijuana: Council's new grow rules will push ops out of Denver, attorney predicts

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Despite a threatened lawsuit aimed at councilwoman Judy Montero and developer Mickey Zeppelin, the Denver City Council approved new medical marijuana grow operation regulations last night with no changes. But MMJ attorney Warren Edson predicts that the bill on view below will backfire, with businesses locating outside Denver rather than deal with the uncertainty the rules impose.

Yesterday, councilman Doug Linkhart was working hard to gain support for an amendment that would have lengthened the span between licensure of MMJ grows and a mandatory review from two years to four. But in the end, he came up short.

The amendment had previously been voted down seven votes to six, but Linkhart was hopeful that either fellow council members Michael Hancock or Jeanne Robb would flip to his side. Indeed, he told Westword yesterday that Robb actually inspired him to offer the change only to withhold her support.

That's not the way Robb tells the tale in a subseqent call to Westword. "I actually said in committee that I thought the amendment, which we had already debated in committee the week prior, made more sense than the other two he had brought that day, neither of which got out of committee and had very little support," she said. "So he went ahead and put an amendment on the floor that we had already debated in council, and he did pick up some votes. But it was nothing I had obligated myself to vote for."

She didn't back the amendment last night, either. According to Edson, "There was this weird tap dance between Linkhart and [councilman] Charlie Brown, where Charlie said, 'Do you want to reintroduce it?' And he said he wouldn't reintroduce it unless he had the support of seven people, and he hadn't been able to change any minds."

As a result, the mandatory reviews will take place every two years -- and in Edson's opinion, the prospect of being uprooted may scare off many of the 52 growers impacted by the bill, and cause others to steer clear of Denver.

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"Why would I advise any of my clients to invest money in Denver, in a questionable place, when they can go to other communities around Colorado?" he asks. "Unincorporated El Paso County accepted these businesses in the November election, and there's lots of space there. And Pueblo accepted these businesses in the election; they're working out the rules, and there's lots of space there, too. If Denver wants to become a regulatory nightmare, they'll just be driving business somewhere else."

Edson also had concerns about the cost of licenses in Denver -- they're more than twice as expensive as their state counterparts -- and the lack of a hard-and-fast definition of drug and alcohol treatment centers, from which MMJ operations must now be at least 1,000 feet distant. Yet he says none of this came up for conversation. The meeting got underway at 5:30 p.m., and "with no public comment and no real debate about amendments, I think we were out of there by 6:15," he says.

The adopting of the two-year review presumably means Curt LeRossignol won't be providing land for a city park; LeRossignol, who leases warehouse space to grows, threatened to withdraw his offer of a donation to the city unless the four-year rule was accepted. A mention of this situation in today's Denver Post might make "average Joe Reader" think LeRossignol is being churlish, Edson believes -- but, he adds, "I don't know that I'd be doing favors for the city, either, when they're taking away my property rights without an apparent reason.

"We're still not seeing lines of people complaining about these grows," he continues. "There was some grumbling from RiNo and some other districts, but we're also seeing increased employment. And if this was an eyesore-of-the-week kind of thing, we'd be seeing photos of grows with their roofs falling in, and we're not. But we're still passing draconian measures that are like nothing we've imposed on any other businesses."

Not that the measure is as bad as it could have been. "There was some compromise here," Edson acknowledges. "Just not enough."

Page down to read the final version of the new regulations.

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12 comments
Robert
Robert

With the exception of Doug Linkhart, the entire Denver City Council is a pack of moronic, posturing fools. This institution does not have responsibility for the most serious problems facing Denver so it has an abundance of time to obsess about medical cannabis. The Council wants to squeeze all the money out of dispensaries it can, while pursuing a blatantly prejudicial and hostile policy towards them. Denver, wake up! Your City Council is fighting the will of most of the citizens of Denver on this issue (and if you took the trouble to find out how they spend their $4,000,000 annual budget, you'd be appalled). Throw the bastards out!

Wantonlewis
Wantonlewis

Yes, it seems that a fraction of the money given to Romer or to the Department of Revenue to put these MMCs out of existence would be given to some legal actions in court or to a ballot initiative, dispensary owners would be counting their cash all the way the bank everywhere in the state like the old days. A constitutional amendment fixing all of this BS could be put on the ballot for only $250,000. A lawsuit would cost $100,000 +. Hmmm... Why would you want to fight the Denver City Council when a lawsuit could be filed or a Constitutional amendment WITH TEETH could be written that would fix all of this? The basic problem is Amendment 20 was written Poorly by MPP/DPA/George Soros and until we fix the constitution, the state legislature and local governments will continue to chip away at any "rights" patients or their caregivers imagine they might have.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Park County Colorado also is one of the few that allows growing in unincorporated areas by the November Vote. There has been little brought up at County Commissioner meetings, but Park County, Alma, Bailey, Fairplay area is the place. The Sheriff has repeatedly stated that he has no desire to worry about marijuana in the county, and grow stores are abundant.

Growing in the mountains has its advantages, cooler, drier for better bud, less chance of getting noticed by the cops and or robbed, and it's just a lot more fun. We're talking about farming here, yea I know it's indoors, but get out of the city my fellow farmers, and move to the country, the mountains. Leave the city behind and get in on the real dope game in Colorado, High County style.

really!!??
really!!??

holy shit, don't call it dope! are you kidding? it's cannabis. not marijuana, not weed, not pot or anything else. especially dope! i'm glad my caregiver doesn't call it dope.

AncientMedicine
AncientMedicine

TRUSTING LOOSE CANNONS

I am still struggling to fully grasp why so many dispensary owners allied with Romer and friends, given Romer's stated goal of the new regulations was indeed to shut 80 percent of them down, with "auditors with guns." Centers going along with Romer's sabotage is akin to playing Russian Roulette with a gun 80 percent loaded.

Not too wise.

Why would anybody trust such a loose cannon, so incredibly bent on subverting Colorado's Constitution?

Right when Romer stated, on record, that he intended to destroy the medical marijuana industry -- by closing down 80 pecent of the dispesaries down -- and put everybody in more legal risk, the wise players should've put a little of their money toward fighting the constitutionality of the new regs to help protect their patients and to help protect their existence.

Hopefully, the center owners won't continue to be fooled so easily and will put some of their money where it should be: fighting the unconstitutional anti-patient and anti-business regulations proposed by Romer and his misguided friends.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Trusting, it's a double edge sword or worse for the dispensaries, they have to please the DOR and the patients. The centers that really care about patients will shut down based on the seed - sale tracking alone.

As far as closing 80% Romer said that of course, but they also thought that no one would apply, or afford to apply, yet some 1100+ dispensaries applied. Romer thought the very nature of licensing would scare away many, but in fact the opposite, even more emerged.

Romer, the cops, DOR, none of them have the power to stop the patients from getting the weed. If the dispensaries move, close, loose customers, what ever, when was the last time anyone couldn't get herb in Colorado, never, it's always here, and always will be.

Boulder Med Cannabis
Boulder Med Cannabis

Boulder welcomes former Denver grow ops with open arms. Bring your dollars north!

Kathleen Chippi
Kathleen Chippi

The Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project has a lawsuit ready to be filed that address the illegality of local licensing statewide. It's simply unconstitutional. How about working together to stop the demise of MMJ in Colorado for EVERYONE?

cannabislawsuits.com

Just like Denver cannot charge anyone a licensing fee to use your right to free speech or limit you where it can take place, they cannot charge you to use your right to use medical marijuana. Medical use of MMJ is defined in the constitution as "acquisition, possession, production, use or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia...."

All we (everyone statewide) need is for the MMC applicants to donate $100-$1,000 each to protect themselves and patients and we will have all the money we need to OVERTURN ALL of the unrealistic and mostly illegal regulations, statewide. Then everyone stays in business and the patients won't be afraid to walk into an MMC. $100-$1000 to take things back to PRE hb1284 is a drop in the bucket after you all gave 10 million to the state to regulate you out of business.

MMC applicants also need to realize, that it's not the PCRLP 'organizing' any boycott--this is what the patients who call us, tell us they will personally do. No one is banning together as everyone wants to remain anonymous. Individually and quietly they will boycott not only the MMC's but the state registry. Without the red card they won't even be able to shop in an MMC.

The CDPHE and the DoR keep saying that until hb1284 and sb109 are ruled unconstitutional in court, they will forge on (with the demise of the Colorado mmj program).

I don't understand how most of you don't see the seriousness of the situation. Romer promised to close 80% of the businesses down. Sen Joyce Foster wanted to "put the genie back in the bottle." How about donating $1,000 to help get back all your rights instead of $10,000 apiece to only have Denver find some other way to regulate you out of business. How about working together to stop the demise of MMJ in Colorado?

The Releaf Center
The Releaf Center

Fewer than 300 businesses wrote a blank check to excise and license for $1.5 million dollars last summer. To put that in perspective, their budget for 2009 was $1.3 million dollars, and that covered nearly 17,000 licenses, roughly $80 per.

A medical marijuana center will pay a minimum of $10,000, or more than 100 times the average business. The cost for us to do business in Denver nearly TRIPLED in a year.

At the last city council meeting, Penny May told us that they "hit their mark".With all due respect to Penny, who is undoubtedly better at math than I am, something doesn't add up.

The logic further breaks down considering the lowest fees are charged for the application process, which usually requires the most work.

The fees proposed are twice what the state charges for a much more rigorous process. If it's really costing us twice as much, can we find out why? Did they need to hire additional staff? Did everyone work twice as many hours?

This is gouging or reckless spending, and the city council wouldn't tolerate it for any other industry.

While we think it's great that at least some attempt was made to look after large investments by our industry, the council didn't pretend to concern themselves with the investments of small business owners. Small centers are already looking at operating elsewhere, leaving fewer jobs and more vacant properties in Denver.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Very interesting take, Releaf Center. Thanks for posting.

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