New marijuana smackdown: Footprints Health & Wellness challenges Jeffco dispensary ban

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Ever since Centennial's dispensary ban was shot down in Arapahoe District Court a month ago, Colorado medical marijuana operations faced with similar moratoriums in other locales have refused to go quietly into the night.

The latest dispute is brewing in Jefferson County. Last week, county commissioners there enacted a six-month moratorium on all types of medical marijuana operations on the basis that the ban was a "necessity to the preservation and furtherance of the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Jefferson County," according to the county's website.

Since the county made the moratorium retroactive, several Jeffco dispensaries have dutifully shut down -- but not Footprints Health & Wellness, a three-month-old operation on Coal Mine Avenue in unincorporated Jefferson County just south of Littleton. Mark, the owner of Footprints Health, says that when the dispensary got a letter earlier this week noting they were in violation of local zoning codes and had to close, he decided to fight it. He'll do so in front of the Jefferson County Board of Adjustments on March 17.

Mark thinks he's the might be only Jeffco dispensary left -- and he doesn't understand the justification for shuttering the others. "We are really very confused why they decided to enact this moratorium," he says. From his perspective, the Arapahoe District Court decision on the Centennial moratorium made it clear that communities can't rely on federal laws prohibiting marijuana to ban dispensaries outright. (Mark's legal team includes Rob Corry and Lauren Davis, both of whom were involved in the Centennial case.)

The county's reference to zoning-code restrictions doesn't make sense to Mark, either. He can't find anything in Jefferson County's zoning code that restricts medical marijuana businesses. He also points out that Footprints Health is located in a zone that allows medical offices, pharmacies, drug stores and retail outlets. In fact, he says, "Any business is allowed within this particular zone."

In other words, Mark's going to be standing his ground at the March 17 hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. in Hearing Room 1 at the Jefferson County building, 100 Jefferson County Parkway in Golden. He plans to demand that the county nix the shut-down order and issue a zoning variance to allow them to keep operating. He anticipates a big crowd supporting him ("Anybody who comes in here, I'm telling them about it," he says), and if the hearing doesn't go his way, he and his lawyers are planning to take the matter to court.

"I think this is wrong," says Mark. And he's going to make sure everybody knows it.

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