With so many municipalities passing medical marijuana dispensary bans this week, more businesses may find themselves in the shoes of folks at Jefferson County's Footprints Health & Wellness, who began challenging a shutdown order earlier this year. They hope a judge will allow them to reopen after months of being shuttered.
Thus far, however, things haven't gone Footprints' way, as noted by attorney Bob Hoban, who also represents El Paso County MMJ businesses that tried but failed to keep Tuesday's prohibition vote from counting. At this writing, the El Paso ban appears to have lost by a few hundred votes, although the results remain unofficial.
According to Hoban, Footprints was ordered to close this past spring over alleged zoning violations, even though various county agencies had licensed it for operation. District court judge Tamara Russell subsequently declined to award Footprints either damages or just compensation -- so Hoban returned to court last week. "We said, 'Since you've foreclosed the possibility of damages, there's no other adequate relief other than allowing this dispensary to open back up."
Clearly, that's a long shot -- but Hoban, who expects Russell's ruling to come down shortly, believes the issue of compensation for business closures is going to become increasingly important given the new batch of dispensary bans. Indeed, Mike Elliott, who headed up the campaign to fight the El Paso County ban, believes many of the "no" votes in Tuesday's election were motivated by the fear that closed dispensaries might be able to sue the jurisdiction for millions.
"I think it's going to be a recurring theme," Hoban says. "The question is, can the government let businesses exist and then try to shut them down after giving them permits, licenses, etc. Can they shut these businesses down with impunity? My answer is 'no,' but we will ultimately need to have an appeals court agree with us on that."
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