Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Medical marijuana dispensary owner sleeps in car and pays $5,000 for the privilege

Wesley Fazio waited twelve hours -- in a cold car, in his long underwear -- for a shot at making his soon-to-open dispensary legal.

Yesterday, the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses started accepting applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses -- which every operational dispensary must apply for by March 1 under the ordinance passed last month by Denver City Council.

And Fazio was first in line.

Fazio had been one of dozens of speakers who testified before Denver City Council before the vote on medical marijuana dispensary regulations last month, and he didn't sugar-coat his displeasure over council's decision to replace January 1 with December 15 as the sales-tax license cut-off date grandfathering in dispensaries that would otherwise be in violation of the new buffer zones.

That's because Fazio had gotten the sales-tax license for his dispensary at 2193 West Evans Avenue on December 30. And there's a dispensary that could be within the 1,000 foot buffer.

So he wasn't about to be caught napping when the city started accepting dispensary license applications. He arrived at the Wellington E. Webb Building at 7 p.m. on February 6, parked his car outside and slept there. "I have on long johns," he said, "But it was not a good time."

Still, his efforts paid off when he was first up in the application process at 7:30 a.m. yesterday morning. The paperwork was complete in just twenty minutes, after which he had to pay $5,033 for the application and a first-year fee -- for a dispensary that isn't even open yet -- and then have his fingerprints taken for the background check that's part of the application.

By the time he was done, the line of people waiting for fingerprints was long (everyone who owns at least 10 percent of a dispensary must be fingerprinted for a background check, and there was only one machine in the department). But the number of people waiting to do paperwork had dwindled from fifty to two -- fewer than the number of reporters in the room.

By the end of the day, the department had processed just twenty applications from eager-beaver dispensary owners (and sent six more back to be completed). Still, that's a quick hundred grand in the city coffers -- with more to come.

Because as of Monday morning, Denver had issued 484 sales-tax licenses to dispensaries -- every one of which will need to file for a dispensary license within the next few weeks in order to stay in business.

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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