In July, a group called Concerned Fort Collins Citizens petitioned the city to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries, and their effort was a success. Now, voters will be asked to approve a ban on November 1 -- and to help fight this effort, Citizens For Safer Neighborhoods is staging a fundraiser in Denver tonight with the goal of educating members of the industry and the public at large about the damage an electoral loss could do.
"Fort Collins is a battleground," says Steve Ackerman, president of the Fort Collins Medical Cannabis Association. "There are twenty medical marijuana centers that operate in Fort Collins, and if they're banned, it will encourage people in other cities to mount similar campaigns. So we really need to stop it here."
Doing so will be a challenge, especially given the approach taken by pro-ban forces. "It's really easy for our opposition to come out and say, 'We're saving the children' and 'We're trying to cut down on crime in our city' -- which is using scare tactics," he allows. Moreover, "a medical marijuana patient, by coming out, is jeopardizing his job, or his spouse's job, or potentially custody of their children. It could go that far. But to come out against dispensaries, you can make yourself look righteous."
Ackerman plans to counter such claims with "facts and education," focusing on the many individuals who'll be harmed if the measure passes -- and not just in Fort Collins, but also in nearby communities such as Windsor, which has already banned MMCs.
"There are around 15,000 patients in northern Colorado -- 10,000 in Larimer County, with about half of them in the City of Fort Collins," he estimates. "And in the absence of medical marijuana centers, they'll have two options. The first is that there will be an increase in the number of grows to support the patients -- and in Fort Collins, there would probably have to be 1,500 additional grow operations to handle the volume. By necessity, they'd be in a residential locations. And the other option would be for patients to have to leave our community."
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In addition, "because of the regulated set-up that came with HB 1284," the main piece of legislation governing the medical marijuana industry in Colorado, "people making the edible form of marijuana have to have an infused-product license. Because of that, edible products couldn't be sold in Fort Collins at all. And marijuana in its raw form would not be available in a regulated environment, in commercially zoned locations that have to meet ADA regulations for access, that don't have to meet the safety codes requiring the medicine to be locked in bank-grade safes at night, with security and alarm and camera-surveillance systems. And there'll be no way to make sure those grows aren't diverted to the black market, which is bound to happen."
To help get this message to the public, Ackerman believes members of the industry throughout the state, including in Denver, need to step up not just in terms of moral support, but also with dollars and cents. "As in any election, our success will depend on resources -- and that includes money," he says. "We'll take any volunteers we can get who want to help. But we also need to be able to have enough money to get our message out."
Tonight's event gets underway at 7 p.m. at the Industry Lounge, 2046 Arapahoe Street. Click here for more information.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Is cancer patient Bob Crouse being prosecuted over paperwork snafu?"