Marijuana: Shop Drops Challenge to Pot-Hating Town Amid Fears of Overzealous Enforcement

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Last month, we told you about Granby's extraordinary efforts to block a pot shop wanting to operate near town -- by annexing the land in an "emergency" action. The law firm representing the ganjapreneurs had suggested that this action would be challenged in court, but its clients have now decided not to do so in part because the county where they'd hoped to locate -- one that's okayed retail marijuana businesses -- appears to be so zealous about enforcement that they're worried about being shut down no matter how carefully they try to follow regulations.

See also: Marijuana: Granby Board Okays "Emergency" Annexation to Block Pot Shop

As we've reported, MMK Limited, which does business as Grand Life Solutions, leased land in unincorporated Grand County with the intention of placing a cannabis store and grow there. But while the land is technically part of Grand County, which allows recreational marijuana sales, it's in an enclave surrounded by the Town of Granby, which has a rec-sales ban in place -- and as the process was moving forward, Granby officials threatened to annex the lot leased by MMK to prevent the business from opening.

The law firm of Hoban & Feola filed a motion for injunctive relief based on the annexation plan, but the possibility of being sued didn't seem to effect Granby's Board of Trustees. They approved the annexation on an emergency basis.

Via e-mail, attorney Bob Hoban shared his belief that state law "clearly prohibits the annexation." In his view, though, the trustees "would rather have a court tell them that and support their constituents rather than vote against the annexation." He added: "Remember, this is a town that has difficulty filling its budget to provide trash service and snow removal, yet it will foot the bill for a legal battle that could prevent any tax income off of this revenue source altogether."

But now, Hoban & Feola attorney Jean Gonnell, who's also been working on the matter, confirms that MMK Limited has dropped its plans to build in the enclave. Why?

The day after the annexation hearing, Gonnell says, "Grand County held a hearing to license another marijuana business. It was the first marijuana business licensed by the county, and our clients went to watch. The hearing went on for four hours and Grand County gave these people a really hard time getting licensed."

For instance, she continues, "they said, 'You can have no odor from your grow facility -- not a scent. And if we receive a complaint from anybody and there is a scent, we'll automatically revoke your license on the spot.'"

To Gonnell's clients, this requirement sounded like a disaster in the making. "They want to be respectful to Grand County's regulations," she stresses. "But to say that a marijuana business can have no smell of marijuana at all seems next to impossible. And if even one person said, 'I smell marijuana,' they could be closed down immediately."

There's no shortage of dispensary opponents in Granby: Plenty of them attended the annexation hearing, and presumably they all had noses. However, Gonnell points out that her clients presented a petition featuring 96 signatures from people who wanted the marijuana store and grow to be approved, including 91 who were Granby residents. And she says Grand County residents voted in favor of Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that allowed limited recreational marijuana sales.

To Gonnell, overly strict enforcement is similar to "counties with regulations that allow for marijuana retail but have basically zoned it out of existence." And while she believes a challenge to Granby's emergency annexation would have been successful, the fear of shutdown if successful has MMK Limited considering alternative locations outside of Grand County, including one in Routt County, closer to Steamboat Springs.

Even if Routt County proves more hospitable, Gonnell remains frustrated by the problems her clients have had in Granby and Grand County. "You'd think mountain towns and counties would be far friendlier to marijuana, because their constituents are," she says, adding, "It's so sad to see these things happen -- because these are good guys trying to do the legal thing."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

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