Medical marijuana: City council compromise could still close most grows, attorney says

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A medical-marijuana-grows compromise proposal passed through Denver City Council's special issues committee yesterday, with public input on the measure slated for February 14. At this point, however, attorney Warren Edson is uncertain if the tweaked proposal might still doom as many as 90 percent of MMJ grows in Denver.

According to Edson, who attended the meeting, councilmembers "weren't exactly giving us all the information. They only gave us a piece of paper outlining the highlights of the compromise."

In addition, he says, "I don't think anybody has seen a final version, including them... and they had no data as to how many businesses this was going to affect or the actual zoning for the businesses they were discussing. And that concerns me. They're taking these steps, and they attached some pretty negative items to something that needs to pass in order to come into compliance with 1284," the main medical marijuana regulatory measure in Colorado, signed into law by Governor Bill Ritter last June.

Of greatest concern to Edson is the possibility that three qualifying factors for grandfathering grows for two years -- an extension that presumably aids operations that might otherwise have been forced to shut down by July 1 -- might still linger in the latest version. And if said extension is only granted to original grow owners rather than current ones, Edson believes as many as 137 of 150 grows in Denver would still be in violation of the ordinance.

Equally confusing, in Edson's view, was the difficulty the committee seemed to have in defining facilities used for treatment or rehabilitation -- an important chore given that MMJ operations will no longer be allowed within 1,000 feet of them, for reasons that he sees as hypocritical.

"Carol Boigon made comments about how she's spoken to addiction experts, and marijuana is an addiction problem," he says. "But Charlie Brown and Doug Linkhart talked about how half the time when people are walking out of those facilities, they're looking at a liquor store, so what's the difference? Whether it's the Triangle Park area or over by Broadway and 21st, where some of the addiction-treatment centers are, there are liquor stores right there. And I can't imagine it's a worse problem for people in treatment to see an MMC than it is for them to see a place that sells a more addictive substance like alcohol."

Edson says the committee members seemed quite divided in their opinions about medical marijuana in general, with Chris Nevitt praising some of the operations in his district as great businesses and Paula Sandoval making what he saw as a "snide comment" that MMJ isn't medicine. In the end, he says, "there was one 'no' vote against the Brown-Nevitt proposal -- and it was Charlie Brown!"

With luck, some of the confusion will be cleared up by the meeting on February 14 -- a Valentine's Day Edson hopes owners of grows won't remember for the worst possible reasons.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: MMC co-owner Morgan Carr says council amendments could cost 1000s."

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