Denver City Council Approves Caps on Pot Businesses, Not Everyone Happy

Update: Last week, after we wrote about the Denver City Council giving preliminary approval to a plan to cap dispensaries in the city and reduce the number of grows, we noted that the plan was likely to pass at the next council meeting — and it did.

But the margin of victory was slim.

The measure won the day by a 7-5 vote, narrowly avoiding the same 6-6 deadlock that delayed its passage a few weeks back.

As a result, the current marijuana business total — 421, counting 211 grows, 147 stores and 63 shared locations — is now frozen, more or less. A compromise that went through last week means that 45 pending license applications will be processed, but those 211 grows will eventually be reduced by fifteen through the process of attrition.

Not everyone is thrilled by the measure, including Tyler Henson of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, who previously penned an op-ed in which he stated, "Denver should not pick winners or losers based off how long a company has been operating within their county. It should champion businesses competing against businesses and rewarding the individual whose business plan allows them to continue to grow and flourish. It is time Denver embraces the cannabis industry and accepts that we have created 20,000 direct jobs across the state and will continue to grow as long as our citizens are able to grasp their own piece of the American dream."

Here's a 7News piece about the latest developments, followed by our previous coverage, which offers more details about the plan and additional videos.

Original post, 6:20 a.m. April 19: As our Thomas Mitchell has reported, the Denver City Council has been mulling proposals to set a limit on retail marijuana businesses — including placing a cap on the number of marijuana dispensaries and reducing the grow total in the Mile High.

And based on actions that took place last night, an amended version of plans sponsored by Councilwoman Robin Kniech are likely to pass.

After a 6-6 deadlock during the previous vote, the council supported the measures by an 8-3 margin.

The vote isn't final, but it's a likely harbinger of one that will be.

Here are the key aspects of the latest iterations.

• Locations for retail shops would be frozen at the current level.

• The grow total would gradually be reduced by fifteen via the use of an annual lottery system that would grant one new cultivation license for every two that drop off the roster.

• Pending license applications — an estimated 45 of them — will be allowed to move forward.

• Marijuana license applicants will have to create so-called "good neighbor" plans that will indicate how the businesses in question will fit into their community and interact with residents.

• A permanent moratorium would be put in place for new medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivations.

The goal of the rules' supporters is to prevent certain Denver area neighborhoods (such as Globeville) from being saturated with marijuana businesses.

And while two councilmembers who voted against Kniech's original regs (Chris Herndon and Debbie Ortega) weren't present last night, it appears that a majority of her colleagues are on board with her mission.

A final vote is scheduled for next Monday, April 25.

Look below to see the official descriptions of the bills, followed by two videos from last night's meeting cued up to the discussions about the proposals.

CB16-0291: A bill for an ordinance concerning the licensing of marijuana businesses, amending the Denver Retail Marijuana Code, Article V of Chapter 6, D.R.M.C. and the Denver Medical Marijuana Code, Art. XII of Chapter 24, D.R.M.C. by capping the total number of licensed locations where marijuana cultivation and sales may be permitted in the city, adopting new procedures for the issuance of retail marijuana cultivation and sales licenses, prohibiting the issuance of new medical marijuana cultivation and sales licenses, and adopting other related amendments.

CB16-0293: A bill for an ordinance concerning the licensing and regulation of marijuana businesses, and in connection therewith, amending Article V of Chapter 6 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code to extend the time period during which eligibility for a new retail marijuana business license is limited to certain preexisting medical marijuana licensees, and amending Article XII of Chapter 24 of the Denver Revised Municipal Code to impose a moratorium on the issuance of new medical marijuana licenses through June 1, 2016, to be effective if and only if the City Council does not adopt an ordinance capping marijuana business licenses effective May 1, 2016.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts