Last November, voters in Windsor outlawed medical marijuana dispensaries -- and as a result, In Harmony Wellness was forced to close this past May. But despite being forbidden to sell cannabis, the business is back as a patient resource center. Today, its owners are staging an open house to reintroduce In Harmony to the community, as well as to a raise awareness about a potential MMC ban in nearby Fort Collins.
Co-owner Tina Valenti was a caregiver in northern Colorado before In Harmony's June 2009 opening at its current location, 4630 Royal Vista Circle #12. During that time, she worked with the local town board to "craft an ordinance that was just about to be put into effect," she says. "But then, two ex-town board members brought a citizen-initiated petition [for a ban], which had to be voted on right then and there by the town board. The board declined it by a 4-3 vote, but that sent it to the ballot -- and that's when we got voted out."
The eventual closure "was hard on me as a business owner, but it was hardest on our patient population," she maintains; In Harmony was listed as primary caregiver for 250 patients, and served more than 1,600 patrons during its time as a dispensary. "They'd come to trust our integrity, our quality of medicine, our consistency. People don't take the term 'caregiver' lightly, and our dispensary was very much a caregiver."
After shuttering In Harmony, "I took the summer off and did a lot of reflecting and regrouping and rethinking," she continues. "and what I came out of that with was the realization that the patient population was being underserved. So our goals now are to serve the legal cannabis patients and those with chronic conditions legal cannabis and other methods may help -- to provide education and accurate information, and bridge the gap between the cannabis community and the community at large."
In addition, In Harmony will provide a referral service to physicians "whose standard of care is comprehensive and continuous," as opposed to doctors who essentially rubber-stamp applications for a fee.
Making ends meet without being able to sell cannabis won't be easy, but Valenti thinks it's possible. "Make no mistake: I'm not getting paid right now," she concedes. "But I'm building a worthy organization, and I believe once we have the attention of the community we're trying to serve, the physician referrals will allow us to keep our doors open and build a database of information for patients."
In the meantime, however, Valenti is fighting to protect the ability of local patients to obtain cannabis -- something that's threatened by a potential Fort Collins prohibition. "People in Fort Collins think they're overpopulated with dispensaries, but that's where 15,000 patients in Larimer County and Weld County have to go. Because of bans in places like Windsor and Loveland, probably 85 percent of the patients have to go to those twenty or so Fort Collins centers. And if they go away, patients in the area will be denied access even more than they already are."
Hence, today's event, which is scheduled to take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. "The whole reason we're doing it is to weigh in on the importance of patient access," she says. Plus, "the voter registration deadline in Fort Collins is October 3. We'll have speakers and bands, but we're also holding a voter-education drive in an effort to educate people about the medical cannabis industry, and why it's important to support it. You may have a college roommate who may not really need medical marijuana, but I know 10,000 patients who do -- and if this goes away, they're not going to know what to do."
Contact InHarmonyWellness.org for more information about today's event.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary ban vote could cost city jobs, $1000s in taxes, says center owner."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.