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Live blog: Denver City Council considers medical-marijuana regulations

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Today, Councilman Charlie Brown is presenting his proposal for regulating the city's medical marijuana dispensaries to the Denver City Council's Safety committee. We live blogged the meeting. To read the account in chronological order, start at the bottom item below.

10:50 a.m.Councilman Linkhart calls up four industry representatives who've been invited to speak: an attorney who represents several dispensaries; Matt Brown, of the Colorado Patients and Providers Coalition, who says he's been getting dispensaries ready for regulations; former state legislator Bob Hagedorn and attorney Rob Corry.

"Marijuana for medical purposes is legal in Colorado," says the attorney. "We want to be treated like legitimate businesses. These businesses are more than just people slinging marijuana."

Thank you, whispers one woman in the audience.

"Legitimate businesses should not be treated like criminal enterprises," he continues, to applause. "We'll comply with every lawful ordinance."

But just what those ordinances will be are clearly going to be a matter of much discussion in the weeks to come.

10:45 a.m.Forget smell. Councilman Michael Hancock is concerned about how far dispensaries will be from schools -- the same concern he has with liquor licenses. "I'd be very supportive of an increased distance," he says. "Even at a thousand feet, it can be right across the street."

And how much distance there will be between dispensaries.

"Five hundred feet means about one a block," notes Jeannie Rabb. "I think one of the ways to balance the fact that some municipalities will be saying don't have any, would be for us to have some spacing rules."

10:28 a.m.Ah, the odor. "How would we regulate controlling odor?" asks Jeannie Rabb.

"I don't know enough about the product to know whether you unwrap a brownie, is there enough odor to come from it?" adds councilmember Jeanne Faatz.

"I can tell you we don't regulate a lot of odors," says councilman Linkhart.

City attorney David Fine suggests that some of these issues can be built into leases. "I suspect we'll see commercial leases dealing with these kinds of things."

10:20 a.m. Council will have a one-hour public hearing on the proposed regulations, Charlie Brown says, "not a twelve-hour hearing." That's how long the state's hearing ran in July. But right now, he's entertaining councilmembers' questions.

In response to a question from Chris Nevitt, city attorney David Broadwell notes that the city has to leave the definition of "primary caregiver' to the state. "Don't try to invent that wheel," he advises councilmembers.

But the city is attempting to define a dispensary, Broadwell adds, and that definition should not affect individuals who are growing their own medical marijuana. That's allowed under Amendment 20, and won't be affected by any Denver regulations.

10:12 a.m."You can mark deliveries as controversial," Brown says.

But what isn't? There's the matter of on-site consumption, for example. "Put a star by that one," he says. "But we need to remember that this is medicine, which people usually consume at home."

Then there's the proposal that all sales be done indoors -- no mobile sales at Red Rocks, for example.

Both cash and marijuana should be stored in secured areas overnight. "In certain respects, you're going to be targeted," Brown says. "We need to be sure your product is locked up at night." Put another star by the rule that security cameras be installed, with film kept for three days, he adds.

And on demand from city officials, dispensaries must be willing to show licenses and "the lawful source of any marijuana on the premises."

10:05 a.m.While many dispensaries will be grandfathered in, new businesses will have to jump through more hoops, Charlie Brown notes, referring to his proposed regulations. Specifically: "All applicants will be required to submit a business plan, consisting of: ownership structure, layout of licensed premises, security plans, description of products and services to be provided, projected number of patients to be served, indication of whether or not prepared food will be sold, management structure and number of employees, contact information, etc."

The regulations on food are new, he points out. So is the criminal background check for owners. "It's a privilege to have a license to operate a business in Denver," he says. And the dispensary will have to have a manager on site.

"Location is a big issue," he adds. "The license will permit dispensing only in a fixed location." No mobile sales, and deliveries will be limited.

10 a.m. "I'm not an alarmist," Charlie Brown says, when Linkhart calls the meeting back to order after a ten-minute delay.

Reminding his fellow councilmembers that they must keep the patients in mind, Brown also points out that Denver will leave the definition of "primary caregiver" to the state. But he's proposing that Denver define a "medical marijuana dispensary," and also require licensing of dispensaries.

There will be added fees for the dispensaries "to cover the cost of administering this new ordinance," Brown says. But the amount of those fees will be left for a discussion on December 2.

9:50 a.m. Councilman Charlie Brown, fresh from a fact-finding mission, is just getting rolling when a fire alarm goes off, and all discussion stops. "It will be ironic if this meeting goes up in smoke," says one official.

9:27 a.m. "Everything shifts from day-to-day on this issue," says committee chair Doug Linkhart. He's talking about medical marijuana, of course, and he's right.

David Fine, the Denver city attorney, starts off the discussion with the city's plan to start taxing licensing dispensaries and charging tax for medical marijuana on December 1. The tax rate will be 3.6 percent, the same amount taxed non-prescription drugs. This, of course, has nothing to do with further regulating the industry, he notes: "It's just one piece."

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