Marijuana: Could Los Angeles-style dispensary closures happen in Denver?
Yesterday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries -- a decision that's expected to shutter more than 700 businesses.
Could something like that happen in Denver? Attorney and longtime marijuana advocate Brian Vicente doubts it, but he doesn't reject the possibility.
"A threat to safe access anywhere is a threat to safe access everywhere," Vicente says.
The L.A. action appears to have been driven by concern over the proliferation of dispensaries in the city, with Councilman Paul Krekorian saying they outnumber Starbucks outlets by a two-to-one margin, according to the Los Angeles Times article linked above. And while a California Supreme Court ruling could determine whether cities can regulate and/or ban retail operations, a case clarifying the controversy isn't expected to be heard for quite a while -- perhaps more than a year.
The lack of clear guidelines in California, whose initiative approving medical marijuana dates back to 1996, represents a clear contrast with Colorado, Vicente believes. Statewide regs are in place here and communities are able to ban dispensaries under them. Of course, this last option creates complications of its own: Witness Fort Collins, whose residents are being asked this November to allow medical marijuana centers less than a year after MMCs were shuttered after a dispensary ban. But the legal structure is very different from the sort of free-for-all atmosphere that's drawn so much federal scrutiny in California, Vicente believes.
The bud bar of Organic Alternatives, which was closed in February under Fort Collins' dispensary ban.
"I think the fact that Colorado has a very clear and very strict set of statewide rules these medical marijuana businesses need to comply by really sends a message to our community that these guys are playing by the rules," he says. "In places like California, it's really a patchwork quilt of regulations. Some communities have strict regulations, some have lax regulations, and they don't really have a state standard that they can stand by and uphold."
Page down to read more about the Los Angeles dispensary ban and its potential repercussions in Colorado.