Medical marijuana fight: Dispensary owner shutting down, but suit against city promised

In June, we told you about a Denver City Council amendment aimed at shutting down Altitude Organic Medicine, a Highlands dispensary, over a zoning technicality. When the amendment passed, owner Brian Cook pledged to sue the city -- and that's still his plan. But he's also shutting down AOM today, after a huge, if bittersweet, going-away party.

Cook decided against seeking a temporary injunction to remain open beyond today for reasons of expense and uncertainty.

"We spent $9,000 on attorneys last month, and we were getting quoted $15,000 to $20,000 to file for an injunction, go to court and plead our case," he says. "So that would be as much as $29,000 out of pocket just to finally tell my story outside the city -- and even then, our attorneys, with really good research, weren't able to say we would get a sympathetic ear. It would be a coin flip whether the judge would read things the way the city attorney does versus the reality of what happened."

Altitude Organic Medicine opened at its Highlands location last November. But in March, Cook was denied a license based on a zoning issue. Although the area where the dispensary was located had been approved for residential mixed use, the city determined that AOM couldn't operate there -- a decision that contradicted the opinion of Cook's legal team.

Last month, the zone was changed to commercial, which should have eliminated any problems. But council members Doug Linkhart and Carla Madison proposed an amendment specifically to prevent AOM from continuing operation. And because of various technicalities, its passage meant Cook would risk a second closure if he moved the dispensary to another location.

To add salt to the wound, another dispensary, LoHi Cannabis Club, was allowed to open approximately 600 feet away from Altitude Organic. The reason is reportedly because LoHi was technically in a different zone -- one that had been designated for industrial use. But Cook believes politics and favoritism were the real factors.

Whatever the case, Cook determined that even if he won an injunction and moved to another location, there was every possibility that he'd be prevented from opening there due to the state moratorium against launching new dispensaries prior to July 2011. Hence, he's choosing to shut down now, with an eye toward reopening in a year.

He also promises that "there will be a lawsuit against the city," for losses that he estimates in the $400,000 range -- and the meter on that amount is still running. Although there are several other Altitude Organic Medicine branches, including two in Colorado Springs, one in Boulder, and a south Denver location where Cook will be referring patients, he notes that he doesn't have an ownership stake in these businesses. Rather, he simply licensed the AOM name to them.

In the meantime, Cook is having a combination party and going-out-of-business sale at the 1716 Boulder Street location, with food, drink and his remaining stock at enormous discounts as one last way of thanking his patients.

"They're absolutely furious about this," Cook says -- and he feels the same way.

Look below to get details about today's bash via a note sent to AOM's e-mail list:


Altitude Organic Medicine has clearly become the best medical marijuana dispensary in the history of Denver to be shutdown for zero rational explanation! Anyone that can write out and e-mail us a rational explanation for allowing another dispensary in the same zone 600 feet away to just open, while we have to close tomorrow at 8pm wins the AOM closing prize! The prize is my November 2009 Sales Tax license framed with the City of Denver.

Think about it????

This could be worth millions or zero someday! :)

Come in and visit us before tomorrow, Friday at 8pm!

Buy everything and anything for cheap! Display cases, medicine, couches, TV's, Artwork, grow equipment, grown vege plants, pots, soil, hydro equipment, nutrients, stack able shelves, tincture, joints, hard candy, apparel! Anything but Max's body is negotiable for sale! lol

We have: $10 grams, $40 1/8ths, $75 1/4's, $150 1/2oz, $275 ounces!! All taxes included!

Altitude Organic Medicine Downtown 1716 Boulder Street Denver, CO. 80211 720.855.6337

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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