Medical marijuana dispensary in Windsor: 76 violations -- so far

In February, we told you about a fight between the City of Windsor and MediGrow, a dispensary owned by Lazarus Pino. Windsor passed a moratorium that grandfathered in two dispensaries, In Harmony Wellness and A New Dawn Wellness Clinic but excluded MediGrow -- because, said Mayor John Vazquez, Pino's operation had tried to sneak in under the wire before all its paperwork was in order.

What followed was a two-pronged bureaucratic attack, with the city fining Pino up to $300 per day and the planning department filing a cease-and-desist order alleging violation of the building code.

The latest? Pino has reportedly been found guilty of 76 violations pertaining to the moratorium and cleared of 65 zoning code charges. But the story's not over, Vazquez says.

"The judge at the municipal court level upheld the moratorium, and Mr. Pino is scheduled to be sentenced on June 17," Vazquez notes. "And the Board of Adjustment ruled that MediGrow is in violation of our building codes. I think Mr. Pino has thirty days to appeal that ruling; that's coming up in the next week or so. And we're still holding out on the district court."

That court, in the person of Weld County District Judge James Hartmann, issued a preliminary injunction in late April forcing MediGrow to close. Now, Vazquez says, "I think Judge Hartmann is prepared to hear the final case on the injunction."

In the meantime, the city stopped issuing fine citations against MediGrow. The total stands at just over $62,000, none of which has been collected to date. "We stopped giving the citations because there was a stipulation by Mr. Pino's counsel that they're in violation of our claim," Vazquez says. "That saved us the need to go out there every day and write a ticket."

Windsor's moratorium is set to expire at the end of August. In the meantime, Vazquez says he and other officials plan "to wait for 1284 to get signed and worked out. I'm certain there's going to be a lot of case law created as a result of it, but there are a lot of similarities between that piece of legislation and our ordinance. Some of the requirements will require us to adjust our code a little, and we're prepared to do that."

More aggressive action, including the possibility of banning dispensaries entirely, doesn't seem prudent to Vazquez, in part because "I think it's going to be challenged in court. I don't know how a statute can override a constitutional right -- and I haven't gotten the impression from our board that we want to lead that battle to determine whether or not the prohibition component is constitutional."

Besides, he adds, "we haven't had any issues with either of the two operations that have been sanctioned by the town. We're still trying to figure out some of the compliance issues, because some regulations haven't been in place. But they appear to have operated with professionalism."

Still, he concedes that the ongoing MediGrow fight hasn't left the best impression among some officials.

"It's like bad crab dip," he says. "If you get sick and feel violently ill from it, you're not likely to try crab dip again anytime soon. And it's unfortunate for the two proprietors who are trying to bring legitimacy to the industry when you've got an entity that kind of goes rogue.

"We never held any ill will to any proprietor," he continues, "and we afforded Mr. Pino due process. It took a long time to get the results we were hoping for -- to get him to close his doors and comply with our rules -- and it never makes anybody feel good when someone has to close a business and stop pursuing his dream. But at the same time, we are a nation of rules and laws."

Unfortunately, many of the ones pertaining to the medical marijuana industry are still a bit hazy.

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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