Dispensaries that were operating in towns that have enacted local bans have had the option of moving within their existing city limits or to a new municipality that allows medical marijuana businesses, as dispensaries in Fort Collins have done.
But centers that shut their doors after receiving letters from the U.S. Attorney's office don't have that option.
State law lets cities and counties to ban medical marijuana businesses. To be fair, the language allowed for shops that have been banned to move. The statute reads: "For a person who has met the deadlines set forth in paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (1) of this section and who has lost his or her location because a city or county has voted pursuant to section 12-43.3-106 to ban his or her operation, the person may apply for a new license with a local licensing authority and transfer the location of its pending application with the state licensing authority."
But the letters from U.S. Attorney John Walsh ordering shops to close their doors because they're within 1,000 feet of a school have nothing to do with local bans or the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. Owners who receive a letter technically are voluntarily withdrawing their application or license to the state. Because of that nuance, the shops can't move anywhere outside of their current municipality.
"If they were unable to move their operations to another location prior to the end of the time period provided by the U.S. Attorney's mandate, then yes, they need to put voluntary withdrawal in place," says MMED spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait. "Because they were not subject to a ban, they must remain within the jurisdiction within which they received their July 1, 2010 local authority approval."
Moving to another city would require shops shut down by federal letters to wait until the July 1 statewide moratorium ends and re-apply with the MMED as a brand new center. The centers would be put at the back of the line, so to speak, and wouldn't be able to open until fully licensed by the state. As of last Thursday, there was a backlog of 503 MMCs, 196 marijuana-infused-products businesses (better known as MIPs) and 819 cultivation centers as of last Thursday.
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This is exactly what happened to Golden Alternative Care owner Craig Mardick, who shut down his store last month after receiving a letter from Walsh's office. Mardick says that because Golden has all but zoned medical marijuana businesses out of town, he can't find a location within the city to move. Compounding that, he says, is the fact that his MMED owners badge, which allows him to work in the industry, isn't transferable to another dispensary. In order to find work at a new shop, he has to re-apply for his badge and pay another $250 fee.
"They took thousands of dollars in fees from me, took my business away and now they won't even let me work without paying them more money," he said. "I'm sick of this. People need to know what is going on."