Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Medical marijuana dispensaries have two days to become legal

Medical marijuana dispensaries face a looming deadline in Denver. On Monday, March 1, any dispensary that hasn't applied for a medical marijuana dispensary license must "cease operations," according to an announcement sent by the city yesterday.

Cease operations, or what? The release doesn't say, but it does reveal that by the end of Tuesday, only 81 dispensaries had filed their applications (and paid upwards of $5,000 to do so) -- which means that another 400 could be walking through the doors of the Wellington E. Webb Building over the next two days.

Do the math: By early February, when the city started accepting dispensary applications, close to 500 businesses that said they were operating, or planned to operate, as a dispensary had already gotten sales-tax licenses from the city. So more than 400 current or would-be dispensaries still need to take the next step if they want to operate in Denver.

Here's the release from the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses:

Friday, Feb. 26 Marks Key Deadline for Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operators

Operating facilities must file application by Friday, Feb. 26 or cease operations until they secure a dispensary license

DENVER -- Medical marijuana dispensary operators who have not yet applied for the City's new dispensary license must do so by Friday, Feb. 26 to avoid having to suspend operations while the license application is under review.

Beginning Monday, March 1, everyone who operates or plans to operate a medical marijuana dispensary must be licensed before operations can begin.

The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses began accepting applications for the newly created Medical Marijuana Dispensary License Feb. 8, following City Council approval of regulations governing medical marijuana dispensaries. Council acted as a result of significant growth in the number of dispensaries in Denver over the past year. Colorado voters approved an amendment to the State constitution in 2000 allowing the medicinal use of marijuana by qualified patients and their caregivers.

By the close of business Tuesday, Feb. 23, Excise & Licenses had accepted 81 applications for review since the new license became available.

Penny May, director of Excise & Licenses, emphasized that only complete applications can be accepted. Documents required as part of the application include a lease or deed, description of products and services to be provided, floor plan, security plan, area map, zoning permit, City sales tax license, burglar alarm permit and a completed application form.

The new City ordinance also requires fingerprinting at the time of application of dispensary managers and others holding a 10 percent or greater ownership share in the business, so those persons must be present when the application is filed.

Upon receipt and review of a successful background check report, Excise and Licenses inspectors will measure those facilities required to meet spacing restrictions outlined in the new ordinance. This requirement applies to locations that received their sales tax license and/or commenced operation after December 15, 2009. These facilities cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school, child care center or other dispensary.

Applicants who pass a criminal background check and whose locations comply with the ordinance are then required to secure a series of additional inspections. Once these are complete, Excise & Licenses will conduct a final inspection.

Full details of the new licensing process, including the medical marijuana dispensary license application, are available at The Council ordinance adopting regulations governing dispensaries is also available on the Excise and Licenses website.

The Denver Department of Excise and Licenses is open from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday - Friday and is located at 201 West Colfax, Ste. 206.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun