By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
I'm not the only one waiting for the doctor. One guy, who looks to be in his twenties, inquires about whether the physician can authorize him for more than two ounces of pot at a time, so he can keep enough product on hand to cook edibles with it. An elderly woman sitting next to me nervously tells a staff member, "My family has been pushing me to do this for a while." She says she hasn't touched the stuff in forty years. A young man who looks to be her grandson watches over her shoulder.
My paperwork filled out, I'm finally called to see the doctor. I'm led into a small office where an older man in shorts and a short-sleeved button-down shirt sits behind a desk. The desk is empty save for a takeout menu for Cheba Hut, a restaurant franchise specializing in "toasted" (wink, wink) subs. He immediately gets down to business.
"I know why you are here, but why are you here?" he asks, and it takes me a moment to realize he wants to see my medical records. I hand over my chiropractor's notes and mumble nervously about my symptoms. I feel like I'm back in high school, taking a major test — one I might be cheating on.
1240 S. Parker Road
Denver, CO 80231
Category: Marijuana - Medical
Region: Southeast Denver
The doctor reads over my records, then clears his throat. "There's only one problem," he says. My spirit drops; it sounds like I'm about to fail.
"I don't know what to write down for your diagnosis," he continues, gesturing to my state registry application. I realize he can't find the chiropractor's diagnosis on my medical records. I point to the top of a page where my chief complaints are listed as muscle spasms and tortacollis, a painful neck and back condition. "Oh," he says, satisfied. "I didn't look up that high.
"Tortacollis isn't bad," he says. "That's serious." But it would be better, he adds, if I got some additional diagnoses, maybe have some X-rays done. No rush, he adds. Just think about it for next year, when you come in for a renewal.
And with a flash of his pen, he recommends me as a medical marijuana patient. "Okay," he says, concluding our five-minute appointment. "You're all set."
Englewood's city council faced an unusual conundrum at its August 17 meeting. Two dispensaries had recently opened in the city, and more were on the way. The news was a bit overwhelming to elected officials, who were considering an emergency ordinance that night that would impose a six-month moratorium on all new dispensaries.
"I need to get a better handle on why these things are coming along so fast," councilmember Wayne Oakley told the room.
Rob Corry, a Denver-based legal consultant for several dispensaries, spoke up at the hearing to argue that the moratorium would be a mistake. "It would be a bad idea for the City of Englewood to remove itself from this growing — no pun intended — industry in Colorado," he said. "The City of Englewood would be walking away from hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially millions of dollars, in potential revenue."
It wasn't enough to appease the concerns of Englewood's city council, however, which passed the moratorium. Corry told councilmembers that, going forward, if they needed help developing regulations, he'd be happy to offer his services free of charge.
Englewood is not alone in its confusion. Dozens of dispensaries have opened in the past months in places like Wheat Ridge, Federal Heights, Lakewood, Littleton and Highlands Ranch. And while Aurora and Greenwood Village have laws preventing them from issuing business licenses to operations that violate federal law, other cities and towns have discovered that they have no rules about dispensaries whatsoever.
In the past month, Durango, Steamboat Springs, Craig, Basalt, Dillon, Breckenridge, Silverthorne, Frisco and Northglenn have all instituted temporary moratoriums on new dispensaries until they develop guidelines for them. Some municipalities, like Aspen, have decided that dispensaries should be treated like pharmacies when it comes to zoning issues, while others see them as nuisance businesses like strip clubs that should be a certain distance from schools and public parks. Denver and Boulder aren't currently considering any dispensary-specific policies.
Commerce City recently revised its city code to include rules for dispensaries (it prohibits public advertisement and outdoor use of medical marijuana), but other communities are reluctant to follow suit, because there's little legal precedent for anything other than requiring that they have a business license and pay sales tax. To figure out how Wheat Ridge should proceed, city staff there borrowed recommendations from "Medical Education and Dispensary Safety," a guide prepared by Colorado Springs-based Cannabis Therapeutics, one of the oldest and largest dispensaries around.
But city officials in Englewood and elsewhere might be wise to take Corry up on the offer of free advice. He and two other Colorado lawyers — Brian Vicente at Sensible Colorado and Warren Edson, co-author of Amendment 20 — know more about the dispensary industry here than anybody, since they've built it from the ground up.
Nearly every dispensary seems to keep at least one of these three legal gatekeepers on retainer, and they constantly rely on their opinions, not to mention their Rolodexes of marijuana-friendly landlords, realtors and doctors. "Everything you do, you contact your attorney and you develop a procedure that you think is the best argument in court," says Jill Leigh, co-owner of a dispensary called Boulder County Caregivers. "You have three attorneys who essentially developed dispensary policy in the state."