The ambiguously-named Medical Marijuana Workgroup met yesterday, and although the point was to create transparency between state and city officials and the medical marijuana center owners, the results were more akin to a big back-patting session for everyone involved.
As we noted in yesterday's blog post, the idea for the sessions came from Tom Downey, director of excise and licensing for the City of Denver. There's no political mission for the meetings; Downey just wanted to have a time and place for all parties to get together in one room and have a conversation. A commendable cause, for sure.
But yesterday's meeting felt more like a conversation with a politician. It had the potential of being engaging and intriguing, but it quickly devolved into a lot of glad-handing and self-praise.
Sure, they awarded Dr. J's the first medical marijuana center license in Denver and gave everyone an update on city council moving forward with a proposal that would allow MMCs to transfer licenses. Both of those are big steps forward from a city that has been pretty damn slow on the whole MMJ licensing uptake. But with no other point to the meeting, the whole thing came off like a photo op for a handful of dispensaries and elected officials.
Other than that, the few speakers seemed more interested in building morale than anything else. A good number people in the audience and up on the panel appeared disinterested, checking their phones and mumbling to the person next to them.
Eventually, the meeting got to the question and answer section. Activist Robert Chase -- probably one of the few non-dispensary folks in attendance -- spoke first, but the audience microphone wasn't turned on and I couldn't hear much of what he said. Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division director Dan Hartman's response, though, included comments about the "reality of the situation" and marijuana being "still a Schedule 1" controlled substance, plus a few things that garnered applause from the audience.
Fill in the blanks of this exchange and you probably won't be far off. Chase is opposed to the state system and thinks it will bring pressure from the feds, while Hartman says the state system is being looked at as an example on the national level and has been keeping potential DEA raids at bay.
The rest of the questions from the audience were very narrow and specific, targeting issues at specific dispensaries. Things like: "I've got a 2,000 square foot warehouse and I'm at the corner of This and That, in my place..." and so on. At that point, like a lot of people in the audience, I packed up and left once it was clear where the rest of the meeting was going. Everyone's concerns were no doubt valid, but some of them would have been better answered over the phone with excise and licensing.
The next Medical Marijuana Workgroup meeting is scheduled for December 14 -- same Bat time, same Bat atrium.