Medical marijuana showdown: City council members target Altitude Organic Medicine

Altitude Organic Medicine received a rave as part of our Mile Highs and Lows dispensary reviews. But AOM may get a much more negative critique at today's city council meeting. Owner Brian Cook says two members are trying to shut down his business over what he sees as an improper interpretation of an outmoded zoning rule.

"We opened in November, and we've been paying sales taxes -- increasing amounts of sales taxes -- every month since then," Cook notes. But in March, the dispensary was denied a license "based on our zone, which was an R-MU-30 -- a residential, mixed-use zone."

Cook is perplexed by this turn-down, since the code for R-MU-30 encourages commercial retail. "Our attorneys made sure of that before we opened," he emphasizes.

To learn more about the complex issues related to medical marijuana dispensaries and zoning, read Joel Warner's post about the issue, which was published last week.

At this point, however, Cook believes the issue should be moot "because the whole citywide zoning change goes into effect today, and we are now in a commercial zone, not that other zone."

But there's been a complication. According to Cook, council members Doug Linkhart and Carla Madison have proposed an amendment specifically to prevent AOM from continuing operation. And because of the previous license denial, its passage would mean the dispensary couldn't be moved to another location, "which is all we want," Cook insists. "We'd be screwed.

"We're a good, local business," he continues, "and they're trying to bankrupt us" for reasons that he thinks have to do with heavyweight political interests interested in eliminating competition for another nearby dispensary.

Cook and his attorneys anticipate speaking at the meeting, which is underway at this writing. Click here to check out a document created by AOM to buoy its position. Look below to see a note Cook sent to the AOM e-mail list, supplemented by letters in support of his dispensary.

Marijuana Deals Near You

We need everyone that can make it to the City Council meeting today at 12:50pm to ask them why Altitude Organic Medicine should not be allowed time to move it's business at the very least? Our business operates lawfully, pays its taxes, and has hired 3 new employees all from the Denver Highlands neighborhood. We are a pure locally owned and operated business that is properly located by the Cities own zoning code, yet the City Council votes today to end us in favor of a competitor less then 700 feet away finishing its build out. The vote to block our business specifically from getting its medical marijuana license happens today. It's already passed 2 readings! The amendment to BR10-0472 stops Altitude Organic Medicine at 1716 Boulder Street, Denver Highlands, 80211 from being able to get its Medical Marijuana license. No other business we have found will be blocked by the amendment but us. Altitude Organic Medicine is one of the fastest growing, locally founded businesses in the state. Ask the Council who proposed this "emergency" amendment and why? Please e-mail and call all the council members before noon today! The meeting is at 1427 Bannock St. Room # 451 (at Colfax and Bannock St.)

Brian Cook, AOM

Jeanne Faatz -- 303 763-8562

Paul Lopez -- 303 922-7755

Peggy Lehmann -- 303 504-5781

Marcia Johnson -- 303 355-4615

Charlie Brown -- 303 871-0601

Chris Nevitt -- 720 865-8900

Carla Madison -- 303 298-7641

Judy Montero -- 303 458-8960

Jeanne Rob -- 303 377-1807

Michael Hancock -- 303 331-3872

Carol Boigon -- 720 865-8100

Doug Linkhart -- 720 865-8000

City Council e-mail addresses are here:

Judy.montero@ci.denver.co.us stephanie.syner@denvergov.org Teresa.stpeter@denvergov.org jeanne.faatz@ci.denver.co.us dana.montano@ci.denver.co.us paula.sandoval@denvergov.org rita.contreras@ci.denver.co.us paul.lopez@denvergov.org denise.perez@ci.denver.co.us peggy.lehmann@denvergov.org diane.young@denvergov.org sunni.rodgers@denvergov.org Marcia.Johnson@denvergov.org charlie.brown@denvergov.org carol.singer@ci.denver.co.us Chris.Nevitt@DenverGov.org Jennifer.Redies@DenverGov.org Valerie.Kerns@DenverGov.org jeanne.robb@ci.denver.co.us nora.kimball@ci.denver.co.us emily.liff@denvergov.org kathi.anderson@ci.denver.co.us carla.madison@denvergov.org stephanie.cross@ci.denver.co. us lynn.lombardhunt@denvergov.org michael.hancock@ci.denver.co. us julia.gayles@denvergov.org rosalind.alston@ci.denver.co. us carol.boigon@denvergov.org rachel.kurtz-phelan@denvergov. org Linkhartatlarge@ci.denver.co. us felix.ortiz@denvergov.org ursla.null@ci.denver.co.us christopher.martinez2@ denvergov.org chy.montoya@denvergov.org

Letters of support:

As a local homeowner within the Highlands, a father, public school educator, neighborhood volunteer, and medical marijuana patient I am curious to find out exactly why the city council has decided to vote for Amendment BR10-0472. It seems, after reviewing this amendment, that it is designed specifically to target Altitude Organic Medicine, and thereby deny them their medical marijuana license. I am curious to find out why. They provide a wonderful service to many patients in the area, seem to be in compliance with all city regulations, and seem to be located in an area that is compliant with local zoning laws barring your upcoming vote. So, what's the deal? With so many shady, out to make a quick buck dispensaries owned by out of state companies with no interest in supporting local communities located throughout the city, many of whom are located right next door to each other, why has the city council decided to push for an amendment that would deny a locally owned and operated, legitimate dispensary with neighborhood support their license? Please reconsider your vote; Altitude Organic Medicine is a wonderful dispensary that provides quality medicine at an affordable price to hundreds of patients, supports local businesses, and has a true stake in the community that it serves. As City Council members, it is your job to represent the interests of your constituents; please consider what the implications of your vote will have on the hundreds of constituents that receive their medicine from Altitude Organic Medicine. Changing the zoning to specifically put them out of business will force hundreds of local patients to find alternative care providers, increase the cost of their medicine, and put a locally owned and operated business with community support out of business. Is that really what the City Council is supposed to do? Serve your constituents and do not allow to pass an amendment that would force Altitude Organic Medicine out of business. Thank you for your time.

Hello council members --

I'm writing on the behalf of the small business Altitude Organic Medicine in the Denver Highlands. Why are you forcing this emergency amendment to put them out of business? I am one of their 900 patients and I wanted to express the community's outrage for this injustice while you approve another dispensary 700 feet away when AOM has been in business since November. What could be the purpose of this when the zoning code specifically states that it encourages small business development and retail stores? Please consider their patients and at the very least give them the opportunity to move their business during today's hearing.

Thank you.

Dear Denver City Council Members:

As one of many young professionals working and residing in Denver, I believe we live in a very special place. Our beautiful city flourishes with active lifestyles, progressive growth and cultivated business development. As we advance as a metropolitan attracting new businesses and investment, it is critical that we make decisions to define and promote Denver as forward looking. The alternative is to become irrelevant.

I recently learned of a disconcerting situation in my neighborhood. Operating business, Altitude Organic Medicine at 1716 Boulder Street, Denver Highlands, 80211 was abruptly denied a medical marijuana license due to recently approved zoning changes. (They are classified within R-MU-30 which "encourages commercial development, consumer retail, and small office uses to create a truly mixed use environment".) While it is unclear the City's objective in closing any business without due diligence, it is blatantly absurd to hear of a new dispensary scheduled to open only 700 feet away (within the same mixed use neighborhood) after such a targeted assault.

While decisions like these seem to be contained initially, there is an inevitable trickledown effect. The owner of Altitude Organic Medicine, who has several business ventures in various industries, likely will move his business to another state. His network of educated entrepreneurs and those that hear the story repeated are likely to consider the option of a more business friendly place for a start up.

In our current and recent economic climate, let's remember and value what we know as the foundation of this country. That is as individuals we can acquire a livelihood in direct proportion to our investment. This begins with opportunity. To deny this basic American right is unlawful.

It is my understanding that your Council will be voting on this issue today at 12:50pm. I ask you to consider the message that your vote carries and to please allow business to continue to operate.

Thank you for your consideration.

To the City Council of Denver,

Quick question, whose friend or who directly is benefiting from the proposed zoning changes under ordinance #BR10-0472? If the zoning laws are changing in order to promote moreresidential development in the area verses commercial business interests then why has a new dispensary been approved for opening only 700 feet away from Altitude Organic Medicine's current place of business? AOM has operated a respectable and vital business for the last twelve months, servicing the critical needs of local patients. They have paid all appropriate licensing fees as well as generate a significant amount of tax revenue for the City. Before your vote tomorrow, I would ask you take into consideration the professionalism of AOM's owner, Brian Cook, speaking directly to his local leadership and the type of business operation he runs.


We're all familiar how local politics can get really messy, and outrageously crooked at times, depending on who you know. From what I've read in here, I don't think you and your partners/employees have to worry about having to move out and lock the doors any time soon. It seems to me that whoever's trying to put you out of business has over played his hand, and that rational city counsilmembers will whack him down.

In my opinion the local, state, and federal lawmakers have their knickers in a knot, getting all flustered about people smoking legal pot, because after 100 years of unsuccessfully trying to curtail people from smoking pot, they're losing the battle because, well, because people enjoy and get a lot of healthful benefits off of smoking good indica. It took the U.S. socio-political system nearly 30 years to wake up and repeal prohibition because they discovered that people are going to drink whiskey, no matter if it's legal or not, and moreover, they'll make they're own rot gut, or buy it from an old fart who has a still in the mountains.

I'm interesting in how the registered voters in California are going to vote on the referendum to legalize good weed for everyone, sick or not.

I look forward to my next visit to AOM, always a good way to spend a couple of hours.

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