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Marijuana grow houses are a growing controversy at Denver City Council

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In the fall of 2009, Denver City Council rep Charlie Brown realized that the city had to get a handle on the booming medical marijuana dispensary industry -- and even as the Colorado Legislature was just starting to discuss MMJ, Denver was signing off on its ordinance. But now the city needs to revise its Denver Medical Marijuana Code to deal with certain provisions of the state law and the growing controversy over grow houses.

One of the major provisions of the new state laws was the requirement that dispensaries -- now known as "centers" -- grow at least 70 percent of their own product. That led to a boom in the grow-house business, with many operations getting their business licenses in Denver before new city zoning rules took affect that would outlaw grows from certain areas.

And so Charlie Brown is back in the saddle again. Last Monday, the Special Issues Committee, which Brown chairs, spent hours discussing a proposed ordinance that would license the city's grow operations, and while the council members reached no consensus, they grappled with a growing list of possible amendments, including one proposal to close any grow facility within 1,000 feet of a residential or mixed use area.

Under new zoning rules, city officials estimate that 167 of the 179 facilities that have gotten permits as grow houses would have to move. And new amendments have been proposed that would further limit locations for the facilities.

So many amendments were proposed that the Denver City Attorney's office spent the weekend redrafting the ordinance that will be discussed at 2 p.m. today in Room 391 of the City & County Building; we'll post the draft as soon as it's available.

But even without seeing that version, Brown promises that today's discussion could be a bumpy ride. And hold on tight: If the proposal makes it out of the committee, there will be a public hearing before Denver City Council two weeks from today.

Happy Valentine's Day.

More from our Calhoun: Wake-Up Call archive: "Gourmet food trucks collide with confusing Denver regulations."

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