Marijuana-friendly coffee shop sues Lafayette to fight city's pot-business ban

Categories: Marijuana

marijuana in bong.jpg
The owner of a once pot-friendly coffee shop in Lafayette is suing the city over a ban that she says specifically targeted her legal operation. Veronica Carpio, owner of The Front Tea and Arts, had been allowing adults over 21 to vaporize cannabis on the premises during the evening since January, but Lafayette City Council unanimously approved an eight-month moratorium on "marijuana-related businesses" on February 5.

Included in the ban was language prohibiting places that "allow the use of marijuana" -- a line Carpio says was aimed at The Front. City Council members disagree, insisting that they were not going after any single business. Rather, they say they need time for the new laws to settle statewide before making any decisions about local rules.

Frustrated at the chilling effect the move had on her shop, Carpio says she was forced to file a lawsuit earlier this month. Essentially, Carpio claims Lafayette is violating her rights as a business owner; she argues she's within her legal rights to allow adults over 21 to consume cannabis in her business. She adds that her coffee shop is just that -- a coffee shop, not a marijuana-related operation of the sort that governments are allowed to ban according to language in Amendment 64. She also contends that the city's ban has negatively affected her bottom line already.

front tea and art shop manager keri smith poses with sign.jpg
A March 2012 photo of The Front's Keri Smith showing off the shop's sign.
"Their decision regarding why they decided to put the moratorium in place has actually hurt my business," she says. "People in town don't want to be seen here [in the coffee shop], because they don't want anyone in council to see them here. I've been shunned by the business owners in this town; they basically hold their breath when they see me. "

City officials say otherwise and maintain that their citywide ban is needed. They argue that despite her business being private, Carpio is inviting the general public into her coffee shop. Because Amendment 64 specifically doesn't allow for "open, public consumption", they say she is violating the law by allowing adults to vaporize cannabis in her coffee shop during the evening -- even if it is behind closed doors and shuttered windows. Beyond that, they say, the state needs time to write their laws before the city starts re-writing their existing zoning and regulatory codes.

"I support the intent of the moratorium, which is to stop the development of any marijuana-based businesses in Lafayette until the state, and the city for that matter, have time to create appropriate regulatory structure around these businesses," wrote Lafayette City Councilwoman Alexandra Lynch in an e-mail to Carpio on February 5. "We don't want a repeat of the medical marijuana situation in Lafayette, where a number of businesses opened and then had to either relocate or shut down once the city had it's regulatory ducks in a row.... I think that it is only prudent for the city to take a time out while the state defines what all this means. So no, I do not support removing the words 'allow the use of marijuana' from the proposed ordinance."

A hearing date has not been announced yet, and Carpio says she hopes things get taken care of sooner than later. Carpio's attorney, Thomas West, did not immediately return calls for comment. In the meantime, Carpio says the shop is still up and running -- just without the nightly haze of cannabis vapor. "I haven't been issued a cease-and-desist letter or anything like that," she says. "I would rather comply with what they are asking and fight it through legal matters. It would be nice to look back on this in ten years and say it was worth it. But it's painful right now."

More from our Mile Highs and Lows archive: "Marijuana business ban in Lafayette includes cannabis-friendly coffee shop."

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Gabriel Black Elk
Gabriel Black Elk

Even if its a regular shop! Its the owners discretion, not how the public wants it ran. Why is everyone hating on weed anyways?

Justin Jones
Justin Jones

She's ahead of herself. I know pot friendly bars in denver, but they aren't making it public and denver isn't a suburb.

Andrew Alm
Andrew Alm

yes it says a marijuana-based businesses this is a coffee/art shop first during regular business hours and a refuge second


This shit is really starting to get  ridickulas. Why doesn't all law enforcment take two steps back.. If they need something to do send them over here to Chicago, maybe they could be helpful. The crime rate there must be below 0. I say leave that cutie Veronica alone. 

 I just sent a very unique and entertaining  DVD to the NORML CHAPTER on Simpson St. make sure you get a copy Roni. 

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

 ** Man in Colorado Springs Pot-for-Donations Bust thought he was Legal **

A Colorado Springs man facing several felony marijuana-distribution charges for running a pot-for-donations service says police signaled the service was legal at the same time they were conducting undercover stings on it. 

Pritchard Garrett, is accused of being the leader of Billygoatgreen MMJ

"His intent was clearly to skirt Amendment 64," Police Lt. Mark Comte said, referencing the law that made limited marijuana possession legal in Colorado.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Colorado's attorney general says her boss has concluded that marijuana-for-donation exchanges aren't legal under any circumstances.

"Distributing marijuana in exchange for suggested donations is a scam to get around the laws against the sale of marijuana," spokeswoman Carolyn Tyler said, summing up Attorney General John Suthers' position.

In an interview, Garrett said Billygoatgreen sought to exploit the current retail hole by offering to give people "free" marijuana and then soliciting a donation for expenses.

"I really thought we were doing something that we could be proud of, something that would provide for our family," Garrett said.

Garrett and two others connected with Billygoatgreen — Shilo Campbell and Matthew Alther — were arrested Feb. 5. They face felony marijuana-distribution charges. 

Because of a previous criminal history in Maryland that included prison time, Garrett said he could be looking at life behind bars.

"I'm scared," he said. "I'm not going to lie."


This is what happens when Ignorant Stoners listen to the outrageously unethical advice of Marijuana McLawyers as regurgitated by an uncritical and uncaring Westweed editorial staff ... unethical legal advice that leads ignorant Stoners down the primrose path to PRISON.
Arrests CAUSED by A64: +3

Take a bow, Michael Roberts and Billy Breathes! ... this obscenity couldn't happen without your callous participation in pimping the propaganda.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Looks like attorney Jeff Gard was smart enough to dump this loser of an issue.

Up steps Tom West to eagerly take a delusional client's $$$ in pursuit of windmills to tilt at.

A64 explicitly grants Cities and Counties the right to BAN ALL commercial marijuana operations if they desire. 

Every City and County can also incorporate Marijuana Smoke into their already existing Tobacco Smoking Ordinances ... to protect the Public Health and Welfare.

DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Gabriel Black Elk ... completely WRONG!

Business owners don't get to pick and choose which LAWS they will ignore, for personal financial gain.

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