Medical marijuana: Denver City Council tweaks could ban some currently legal MMJ grows

At 10:30 a.m. tomorrow, the special-issues committee of the Denver City Council will assemble -- and its goals include massaging the city's medical marijuana code to bring it more in line with the state's MMJ law, signed in June. But while Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation executive director Betty Aldworth doesn't see a lot of problems emerging from these tweaks, she's concerned about draft language that could outlaw some Denver grows.

"Denver was one of the first cities to implement regulations around medical marijuana centers and distribution," Aldworth points out. "The council created its code before HB-1284" -- the state law -- "went into effect. So essentially, what this ordinance they're going to be talking about would do is bring Denver law into parallel with 1284."

Doing so will be fairly mundane for the most part, Aldworth believes: "Overall, this is a really easy and non-controversial ordinance as it's drafted so far" -- and it'll stay that way unless unexpected amendments or changes are made. But she's worried about "a cross-jurisdictional requirement, where they say they won't issue a cultivation license unless you have an infused-products manufacturer or a medical marijuana center located in Denver -- and that's a problem, obviously. If you have an infused-products manufacturer that's growing in Denver, they might not sell any of their products through Denver wellness centers. But under this draft, a grower has to have at least one retail outlet or wholesaler in Denver in order to be able to obtain a license."

At this point, Aldworth knows of at least two operations that would be negatively impacted if this draft language is adopted. She describes them as "really good actors who have wonderful perspectives on patient care, beautiful facilities, and who are concerned about being good neighbors" -- and she suspects more entrepreneurs could be at risk.

In her view, there'd be equal negatives for the city and those facing a disruption in their business. "Denver would be losing revenue, among other things," she notes. "And we think there are better ways to handle this than outright prohibition of these particular individuals."

Aldworth concedes that the council's recent decision to limit home grows in the city to twelve plants was disappointing. "This is a terrible situation, especially for the most vulnerable patients, who probably can't grow in their own homes and who use caregivers as a way to access less-expensive medicine," she says. "They're now left out in the cold, because they probably can't afford or get to the retail model of medical marijuana."

For the most part, though, she praises the officials. "We're very fortunate in Denver to have a city council whose members have educated themselves about the issue," she says. "If you look back at some of the meetings, their greatest concern seems to be about women in bikinis and sign-wavers. That tells me that they've taken the trouble to learn about medical marijuana issues, and they've found out that once you're educated, it's not scary anymore.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana restrictions: Councilwoman doesn't see residential grow limits as a hardship."

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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