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Medical marijuana retail ban passes in Fort Collins despite union help fighting it

Update: Steve Ackerman, president of the Fort Collins Medical Cannabis Association and owner of the Organic Alternatives dispensary, notes that the final count in a vote to ban MMJ retail operations in his hometown won't be released until noon today. However, he sounds resigned to defeat and plenty shell-shocked. "I'm a businessman, and I've never been voted out of business before," he says. "I'm not exactly sure what to do with that."

His take on what went wrong? "I think we got a lot of the younger demographic to come out and vote, but I don't think we got enough of them. And maybe we didn't get information out as well as we could have to educate the older voters -- the ones who vote in every election. We weren't able to get out the facts of how it works and differentiate the regulated model with what we will have in its absence."

The Organic Alternatives bud bar.
The Organic Alternatives bud bar.

He also wonders if those who backed the ban thought through the fact that "there are 8,500 patients here in Larimer County who are legally allowed to possess up to two ounces of medical marijuana and allowed to grow up to six plants -- and that's not going to go away. But what will go away is the only regulation and control we have for distributing medical marijuana for these patients, and the $550,000 in sales tax revenue generated by these businesses last year."

Those attempting to defeat the ban faced an uphill struggle from the beginning. Turnout of those likely to reject such prohibition is much lower during odd-year elections -- and the major items on the ballot involved a statewide education tax and a funding measure involving a jail that Ackerman says is likely to be defeated as well. These last two measures likely generated even more participation from older voters less likely to support retail MMJ.

The ban means twenty Fort Collins centers will have to close within ninety days of the election's certification. Some may try to reopen in areas that allow dispensaries, but Ackerman doubts he'll be among them. "I've been a long-term Fort Collins resident, and this is a community business I have here. I probably don't have the desire to move it to another community."

As for patients, they can patronize one of two centers east of Fort Collins in unincorporated Larimer County, which has "not been favorable to medical marijuana centers," Ackerman notes. "We'll have to see how the county treats them."

In the meantime, Ackerman is struggling to be philosophical. "I think this is just a battle in a war that will continue," he says. "But I'm not sure where I'm going to fit into that ongoing war."

Original post, 7:04 a.m. November 2: Back in August, Steve Ackerman, president of the Fort Collins Medical Cannabis Association, told us that a proposed medical marijuana retail ban in the city would cost plenty of jobs and $1,000s in taxes. But neither that argument nor support from United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which announced last month that it had organized MMJ workers at some Fort Collins centers could stop the measure shy of victory.

The ban hasn't officially passed at this writing, but given the numbers involved, it's all over but the shuttering. According to the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the pro-closure forces were ahead 53 percent to 47 percent when officials shut down the count due to inclement weather. But there don't appear to be enough ballots left to make up the deficit.

An indication that those fighting the ban knew they were going to lose? Look no further than a UFCW press release sent out on Monday to announce a press conference at 11 a.m. today at the Stop the Ban campaign office, 237 Linden Street in Fort Collins. Its headline -- "Win, Lose or Draw, UFCW Local 7 Will Continue to Stand Shoulder to Shoulder With Patients and Workers in the Medical Cannabis Industry" -- gave off the scent of defeat, and so did quotes attributed to Local 7 President Kim Cordova. Her assertion that "we fought hard against the ban in Fort Collins because wherever prohibition wins, workers lose their jobs, patients lose safe access and

small businesses are boarded up" was in the past tense even though the election hadn't happened yet.

We've reached out to Ackerman for an interview, and when and if he gets back to us, we'll update this post. In the meantime, though, it's only a matter of time before what had been one of Colorado's most MMJ-friendly cities yanks back its welcome mat.

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana & unions: Cannabis Business Alliance says it's too soon to organize industry."


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