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Pot protesters pick the wrong target, Denver officials say

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I was on the phone with a city official late Monday, and could hear the protest outside City Hall, organized by Robert Chase, founder of the Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers, who's asking for a recall of the Denver City Council members who voted for the ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver -- for now.

"They're at the wrong building," the official said. "They should look across the street, up the hill." Up to the State Capitol, where there will be a public hearing Thursday on the House bill that would regulate dispensaries -- to death, say some opponents, including attorney Robert Corry.

Even as Denver City Council was passing the city's ordinance on January 11, councilman Charlie Brown, who led that charge, cautioned the audience packing City Council chambers to pay attention to what was happening at the Colorado legislature. Because while Denver is a home rule city, there's no guarantee that Denver's rules will trump whatever law could come out of the Capitol by the end of the session.

And what's coming could be Draconian for the entire medical marijuana industry, making Denver's ordinance -- under which 235 businesses applied for dispensary licenses by March 1, with more likely to come -- look mild. Chase is concerned that only half of the 500 businesses that had applied for sales-tax licenses, saying they were in the dispensary business, had gone on to apply for actual dispensary licenses -- but that's 235 more than might be allowed under a new state law.

Although the hearing on Thursday afternoon will be public, amendments to the proposal are being floated in private. Brown and other municipal officials who are working on rules for their own cities were supposed to hear about some of them at a meeting Monday, but legislators were stuck on the floor. Now Brown is hoping to get a preview today.

Keep your eyes -- and ears -- on what's happening up the hill.

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