Medical marijuana ban in Grand Junction: Will dispensaries file suit to stop it before January 1?

The arrest of Grand Junction's Jack Duke for allegedly teaching his six- and seven-year old daughters how to smoke marijuana took place against the backdrop of a 6-1 decision by GJ's city council to ban dispensaries within town limits as of January 1. Local dispensary owners are reportedly considering a petition drive to force the issue to a public vote. But local attorney Tae Darnell confirms that he's been contacted about a possible lawsuit.

Darnell emphasizes that nothing's been filed yet, but he says, "We've been in discussions with some people -- I can't share with whom. But my guess is, you're going to see some kind of team on this one.

"The way I look at this process is, we're all engaged in the same battle, no matter what attorney is on it. And all of us are willing to help and keep this thing moving forward, so we can defeat some of these ridiculous zoning measures."

He includes in this category the Grand Junction council's ruling, "which gives people until January 1 to clean up and get out."

This edict is one of many efforts to prohibit dispensaries from communities around the state. For instance, Castle Rock voted to ban MMJ centers by year's end, too. Attorney Rob Corry has filed an intent to sue the city on behalf of Plants 4 Life, an operation that was granted a business license before efforts ramped up to shutter it. But rather than simply relying on the courts for redress, Plants 4 Life's owner is gathering petitions this weekend in the hope of forcing the issue to a vote.

According to Grand Junction's Daily Sentinel newspaper, owners of 23 dispensaries in the community will face a similar fate without either a successful petition or court action in their favor.

"They're pretty united about this in discussions I've had," Darnell says, "and that's a good thing. This is going to take a lot of teamwork, and the more parties you get involved in the process, the more people will realize the impact these businesses have on the community, and the number of patients these businesses serve. And that's what I think the council is turning a blind eye to. They direct their attention to the dispensaries instead of the patients, and that's not fair -- because dispensaries are really providing access points for patients."

Regarding the rationale for the council's decision, Darnell says, "It seems to be just, 'We don't like this, so see you later.' These decisions are often arbitrary and capricious, without any reasonable grounds."

In his view, the fight against the Grand Junction ban "is going to be critical. I think a lot of people view this as a Front Range issue, but the Western Slope area is an important area to recognize in this process. You're talking about a broad area that won't have any access for patients.

"Places like Denver and Breckenridge have dispensaries, and other places in between, like Glenwood Springs. But it's unreasonable to expect individuals with often debilitating conditions to get in their car and drive five miles, let alone fifty or 150, to get their medication. And that could be the result of these negative actions by the city government."

In regard to the timing of a potential lawsuit, Darnell shies away from specifics. But he believes attorneys and dispensaries must band together to fight limits like the one put in place in Grand Junction. As he says, "we need to get to a place where the industry doesn't always have to fight for its life."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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