Medical marijuana vote in Castle Rock: Power players face off over last Douglas Co. dispensary

In the ongoing bureaucratic battle over medical marijuana, Castle Rock has already witnessed its fair share of skirmishes. Amber Ostrom, owner of the city's one and only dispensary, Plants 4 Life, had to jump through numerous legal hoops before she was allowed to keep operating. And now, on April 5, city voters will decide once and for all on the fate of Ostrom's operation -- the last surviving dispensary in all of Douglas County. But first, there's going to be a public forum of epic proportions.

Castle Rock is the last Douglas County locale to vote on whether or not to allow commercial medical marijuana centers. And it's clear Ostrom is frightened about the outcome. As she recently told the local paper, The News Press, she believes that shuttering Plants 4 Life would actually hurt Castle Rock -- since in its place would spring up an underground market of unlicensed caregivers. "When home grows go up, a [commercial] ban will hurt the home values because unregulated, un-taxed home-based grow operations will spread to the neighborhoods," she said in the interview.

But before her fears potentially come to pass, Ostom and her supporters -- as well as her detractors -- will have one last chance to sway the outcome: On Wednesday, March 30, the Douglas County Substance Abuse Coalition will host a Medical Marijuana Educational Forum at 6:30 p.m. at the Douglas County Events Center, 500 Fairgrounds Drive in Castle Rock -- and from the looks of it, things are going to get feisty.

"The Substance Abuse Coalition of Douglas County has been wanting to provide this opportunity for almost two years," says coalition chair Mac McAvenia. "The volatility of this issue has been a struggle within the coalition for obvious reasons, preventing us from holding this forum in conjunction with past Substance Abuse Resource Fairs." With the town of Castle Rock voting on the fate of the last dispensary in all of Castle Rock, the coalition figured it was now or never. "A few current and former council members have formed a committee and sent out mailers with the very fear and scare tactics we are attempting bring light to," says McAvenia. "Ignorance accomplishes nothing."

To combat that ignorance, the coalition has lined up some of the most colorful and outspoken figures on both sides of the debate. Along with Ostrom, media-savvy marijuana attorney Rob Corry will take the stage to argue for the freedom to sell pot. And on the other side? None other than Carol Chambers, controversial 18th Judicial District Attorney, who's used to making headlines of her own.

"We purposely went as far left and right, if you will, because of their passion," says McAvenia. "The panel will also include folks with more moderate views as well as [those who can talk about] medical and physiological aspects. That will hopefully temper the rhetoric with valid information and facts while avoiding a donnybrook."

But with folks like Corry and Chambers in attendance, a donnybrook might be unavoidable.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Donor complaints lead food bank to abandon dispensary pot-for-food drive."

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