Medical marijuana chain?: Amsterdam firm's plan may be killed by residency requirement

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Among the more controversial elements of the state's pending overhaul of the medical marijuana industry, is a requirement that those operating dispensaries be Colorado residents -- a provision that at first sounds like it could be a cash cow for local business.

But HB 1284 and SB 109, which Governor Bill Ritter is expected to sign into law, threaten to effectively exterminate a good chunk of those local businesses. Because most of the smaller joints lack the funding and resources to adhere to the strict requirements before the July 1 deadline, bigger companies are better positioned to edge in on the market.

Pot attorney Tae Darnell says that means out-of-state and even international interests will likely pick up the slack -- like an undisclosed Amsterdam company that's hoping to acquire 25 shops before the residency clause bars them on December 15.

"It's a company that's interested in potentially being involved in this area," Darnell confirms, saying attorney-client privilege keeps him from disclosing more. "We have a number of out-of-state interests, to be honest. Addressing that as we move forward is going to be critical."

But until the residency requirement is officially signed into law and the Department of Revenue writes rules for how it will execute it, out-of-state investors, who could provide some much-needed reinforcement of the state economy, are left in the dark.

Their only hope, Darnell says, is to have their ducks in a row, filing all the licensing applications before the deadline. Other stipulations: They must be free of criminal records and their companies need to manage their own grow operations, with 70 percent of the stock tied directly to their patients.

Darnell was among a panel of ten attorneys who blasted the pending laws Monday and pledged to take on Colorado's marijuana regulation in full force. At the event, hosted by the Cannabis Therapy Institute, he called the statutes a "monstrosity" and said Colorado's robust medical marijuana patient network was neglected in its writing.

In the meantime, Darnell says, "we're still waiting" to see how the bills shake out. "We don't have any of the applications forms -- we're all sort of playing off a blank palette for now."

With the coming exodus of Qwest among several recent hits to Colorado's bottom line, outside investments could represent a smoking deal for the faltering state economy. But there's a lot riding on how the state's Department of Revenue fleshes out the legislation, as well as law-enforcement's response to the industry and the possible impact of those promised lawsuits.

As Darnell puts it, "There's gonna be a lot hashed out here in the next few months."

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