Marijuana: What happens to medical shops whose towns have banned recreational pot?
So far, 24 Colorado cities have banned recreational marijuana sales since the passing of Amendment 64. This is not a surprise, since most already had an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana stores. But what about those that have MMJ shops that now won't be able to switch to recreational -- like, for instance, Englewood, which briefly allowed dispensaries in 2009 but has since banned them. The three dispensaries that were grandfathered in have found it hard to stay open ever since.
"There is a strong push to get dispensaries out of the city," says Colby, manager for Mile High Dispensary; he asked that we not use his last name. "Basically, our plan right now is to open a recreational shop outside of the city, since you have to be a medical facility in Englewood."
Along with the ordinance banning recreational marijuana, which was passed last month, Colby says the city also doubled the distance marijuana operations must be from schools, from 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet.
This isn't an issue for the dispensary itself, but Mile High's cultivation facility is within the new limit -- and if it's forced to close, the business as a whole may be at risk. Colby says owners will be taking the city to court over the issue next month -- and the shop hopes to win the battle and remain open. To do so, though, it will have to remain a medical store, unlike Mile High Dispensary 2, a sister shop in Lakewood that hopes to open its doors to recreational as well as medical customers once it's legal to do so.
Calls to Englewood city council members on the subject were not immediately returned.
Five other cities in Colorado offer similar challenges as those in Englewood, including Dacono, which prohibited dispensaries at the beginning of the year before giving them the okay to reopen at around the same time recreational facilities were banned.
Dacono Meds shut down during this change in laws and has yet to reopen.
"We are trying to come back, but the application fees are very high," says Brad Henson, Dacono Meds' owner. "It has taken a lot to fight the community and get reinstated."
He's not exaggerating. Last November, after learning about the Dacono ordinance to shut down MMJ stores, Henson transferred his license in order to open a shop in Sedgwick. Now, in order to begin operating in Dacono again, he basically has to begin the licensure process again as if the business was brand new. That means reapplying for licenses, which cost thousands of dollars. In addition, the city changed its zoning rules for medical marijuana operations, and while the ones in disallowed areas can stay there for now, they must move by the end of 2014.
Henson is optimistic that he will get the Dacono shop up and running again, and he thinks the inability to sell recreational marijuana might not prove fatal to his profit margin.
"I did notice there are a lot of people dropping off the registry," Henson says. "But I hope there are enough that want to avoid taxes by staying medical."
For about $7 a month, Henson says, patients can keep their red card active -- and depending on a person's consumption, that may be a lot cheaper than taxes.
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