Business

Globeville Dispensary Closed, Recreational License Rejected

Bonfire's Denver dispensary was part of a four-store in chain in Colorado.
Bonfire's Denver dispensary was part of a four-store in chain in Colorado. Google Maps screenshot
The City of Denver has denied a Globeville medical marijuana dispensary's application for recreational sales because of opposition from community members.

Bonfire Cannabis has operated as a medical-only dispensary at 4837 Washington Street since 2018, and started the process of adding a recreational sales component in February 2021, according to the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses. The dispensary received a favorable recommendation from a hearing officer late last year, but its application was ultimately rejected.

Part of a four-store chain in Colorado with stores in Central City, Idaho Springs and Tabernash, Bonfire has the okay to continue medical marijuana sales at its Denver location for the rest of the year. But the store is currently closed, according to the company's website, and Bonfire did not respond to requests for comment.

Similar to the way a liquor store or bar must go through a Needs and Desires hearing with the city, a potential dispensary must go through a public hearing before Denver issues or denies a business license. Overseen by a city-hired hearing officer, the hearing allows proponents and opponents to voice their cases before the hearing officer issues a recommendation.

After two postponements and a two-day hearing in November, a hearing officer concluded that Bonfire served a need for adults in the area, and that the majority of opposition to the store getting a rec license centered on a prejudice against marijuana use. The Excise and Licenses director usually follows the city hearing officer's recommendations — but not always.

In an April 25 decision issued to Bonfire Cannabis, Excise and Licenses director Molly Duplechian cites "overwhelming evidence" of community opposition, and a failure on Bonfire's part to establish a need for more recreational marijuana sales within the Globeville neighborhood.

"The applicant failed to establish that the reasonable requirements of the neighborhood are not met by the existing retail marijuana stores in or near the designated area," the decision reads.

According to that decision, Bonfire's proposed recreational conversion received 75 signatures of opposition from neighborhood residents, compared to 36 in support. Among those fighting the dispensary's transition were Denver City Council reps Debbie Ortega and Candi CdeBaca, whose district includes Globeville, as well as Globeville neighborhood organizations Globeville Civic Partners, Globeville First and United Community Action Network.

The majority of the opposition centered on the number of dispensaries already in the area, a point made by CdeBaca and Ortega during council meetings in the past, and also cited in the Excise and Licenses decision.

Largely because of a concentration of stores that opened there in Denver's early days of medical marijuana, north and northeast neighborhoods such as Elyria Swansea, Globeville, Montbello and Northeast Park Hill top the list for dispensaries per capita in Denver.

Just under fifteen years ago, before location rules for marijuana businesses existed in Denver, dispensary and cultivation owners struggled to find property owners who would lease space to federally illegal enterprises. Paying in cash at higher rates than average, many of these businesses found homes in industrial areas in north or east Denver, with other marijuana hot spots such as South Broadway and East Colfax also developing during those years.

Most of those medical marijuana businesses acquired their recreational licenses years ago, though, and Bonfire apparently showed up too late to a crowded party. The company could appeal the decision in Denver District Court but hasn't filed a case yet, according to Excise and Licenses.

This is the first time since 2017 that an operating medical marijuana dispensary's application for recreational sales license was denied by Denver. The last denied applicant, Green Cross of Cherry Creek, was eventually approved in 2020.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell