Wednesday night's first meeting of the latest Medical Marijuana Workgroup at Denver's Wellington Webb building has generated mixed reviews. It was either a successful forum for lively debate or an incestuous assembly of business and government leaders who all stand to make a buck off the MMJ industry in one way or another.
Despite its name, the group didn't do any working. Tom Downey, director of Denver's department of Excise and Licenses, says he organized the meeting as a way to get various stakeholders from Denver together in one room to help clear the air regarding dispensary application confusion.
Downey, who only appeared as a guest of the panel, stressed afterward that the meeting was merely a town-hall style gathering and that that the group is not charged with setting any rules or policy. "I wanted folks to form and be able to gather in a room at the same time to hear the big status update, to ask the questions," he said. "This is a big conversation."
But not everyone sees it that way. Twirling Hippy Confections owner Jessica LeRoux was also in attendance. She says lobbyists and representatives of twenty or so dispensaries that have received pre-approval memos from the MMED were the main attendees. The panel itself was a sham, she says. "The city didn't do a good job of reaching out to the community, just the people they know.
"It doesn't represent independent businesses at all," she continues. "Everyone on that panel was in business together." She went on to point out that among the law enforcement and city officials on hand were three members of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. She charges MMIG with helping to lobby for tighter dispensary regulations that make it tougher for smaller dispensaries and MIPs to survive.
While Downey didn't have a list of the panel members, he said Matt Cook, the former medical marijuana overseer for the Department of Revenue, who led the discussion, should be able to supply the names. We've reached out to Cook, and when and if he gets back to us, we'll update this post.
However, Downey said much of the meeting was spent discussing Denver's current progress on processing applications. Currently, the state has conditionally approved some state applications, pending city approval -- which has been slow to come in Denver. Downey says he explained that the city has decided not to process applications in the order they arrived, but by how easy they are to complete.
For example, the first round of applicants was selected from those centers with one licensee applying for only a single license. Of the hundreds of applications, only three fit those qualifications, and just one, Dr J's, was approved. The second round selection produced 44 centers eligible to begin the official city application process, which starts on Monday, when the official forms are released through the Excise and Licenses.
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And though the news was good for the 45 dispensaries getting the go-ahead, LeRoux says that announcement was a waste of time, as was the lengthy discussion about license transfers that followed
"They didn't talk about anything," she says. "The questions that were asked were softball questions, and the answers were essentially endorsing that you turn to the members of MMIG for help. I saw it as the city and state stroking MMIG members and vice-versa."
But despite LeRoux's claims, Downey feels the meetings were successful enough for them to move forward . The next get-together is set for 3:30 p.m. October 26, again at the Wellington Webb building.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: MMED working group cold shouldering Twirling Hippy's Jessica LeRoux?"