Medical marijuana ban: All Fort Collins dispensaries must close by midnight

There's no love for medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins today. Thanks to a voter-approved ban on medical marijuana businesses, all centers and grows have to be shut down by midnight tonight.

Seargent Jim Byrne, speaking for the Fort Collins Police Department, said officers plans to be busy today performing last-minute inspections on the dozen-or-so shops that have remained open until the very last minute. When the clock strikes twelve, shop staffers must hand over any leftover product if they want to remain in good standing with the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division and potentially open another shop in the future. Any marijuana found on-site after today could warrant criminal charges.

"They want to stay open as long as they can. It's a business, and we get that," Byrne noted. "Business owners have been very cordial and cooperative so far. We get where they are coming from. We just let them know that it's not us; we are just the moving company here."

Several centers had kept operating in the hope that a last-minute lawsuit filed by attorney Brett Barney on behalf of five dispensary owners might lead to a temporary injunction. But the presiding judge ruled earlier this week against Barney's clients, allowing the ban to move forward.

"The net effect of it is that my clients aren't going to get any recourse in Larimer County," Barney said. "As of right now, they are all planning on shutting down in compliance with the city's ban. Not sure if we'll be appealing the court's decision, but this certainly isn't good for patients or the industry in any way."

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According to Barney, the judge considering the lawsuit looked as if he had already made up his mind before the trial began, noting that he read from a written statement during the ruling. "It seems like the conclusion was forgone," he said. "I thought we had a judge who believed in the constitution. But we failed in that, too."

Folks at most shops contacted this morning didn't answer their phones -- either that or the phones had already been disconnected. However, a manager at Medicinal Gardens of Colorado, which was open today, said that the crew plans on shutting down at 7 p.m. tonight as usual, then transferring remaining product to Denver for the grand opening of High Street Growers, a new shop on Federal. The manager said she was sad, but felt fortunate that Medicinal Gardens had an option.

Others aren't as lucky. An owner at Elite Green Organics was planning on staying open until 2 p.m. today, then dissolving his LLC after the police completed a final inspection at 3 p.m. He said he doesn't plan on having any herb left to hand over to the police and is clearing out the roughly two pounds he had left at $70 an ounce. Before the shop could even open, he said he had six people in line outside, ready to buy.

But the ban hasn't meant an end to every shop near the college town. Just outside the city limits, near I-25, Choice Organics owner Erica Freeman has been spared from the ban by being grandfathered into her location by the county. Freeman said she plans to remain open to serve patients left stranded by the ban.

Representatives of several centers, as well as members of the local United Food and Commercial Workers, plan to work toward repealing the ban through the ballot initiative process.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana retail ban passes in Fort Collins despite union help fighting it."

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