Last week, we told you about Adams County's efforts to shut down iBake Denver, a marijuana club that's operated for more than three years.
The co-owner of iBake, who goes by the name Thurlow Weed, promises not to give up without a fight, "even if it takes our life savings.
"We're doing it in the hope that we can stay open and provide a business model that other people will be able to use to open consumption sites elsewhere in Colorado," he says.
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As we've reported, the roots of iBake Denver can be traced to iBake Radio, an Internet radio station that Weed launched several years ago. Then, shortly after the November 2012 passage of Amendment 64, the measure that legalized limited recreational marijuana sales in Colorado, he decided to expand the operation to include a place where cannabis lovers could get together to consume.
Hence the February 15, 2013, launch of iBake Denver. But despite its name, the business's location, on the 6100 block of Washington Street, isn't in Denver. Rather, the club is just beyond the Denver County line in Adams County.
During a 2015 interview, Weed declined to get specific about the operation's specific approach to remaining on the right side of the law. But he noted that the club sold memberships for $10 per month, with an additional $2 membership fee for each visit during that month.
Otherwise, he stressed, "iBake Denver has successfully stayed open...in part by following all of Colorado's rules and regulations — especially when it comes to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act."
Weed also told us about some previous interactions with law enforcement, including one in which a deputy allegedly "said he liked the place, because they didn't have any issues with us, like they did with the bar down the street."
Nonetheless, Adams County officials maintain that they were unaware of the club until it received complaints about a planned 4/20 event this year, after which they discovered that the business was zoned as a motorcycle repair shop.
Several inspections followed, and now Adams County is reportedly seeking an injunction against the business for violating zoning ordinances during a court appearance expected to take place later this month. Thus far, Weed says, he hasn't gotten a firm date for the proceeding.
In the immediate wake of this announcement — one decried by Denver NORML, which is pushing a ballot measure to allow marijuana clubs in the city — Weed shared a screen capture from Adams County's website of an item about a minor zoning violation circa 2014 as evidence that officials did indeed know about the club's existence prior to this year. Here it is:
He also lashed out in a Facebook post, writing, "So it's all about the 'Powers that Be' now. No that's not the county, it's the fuckin haters in the community calling about our shop. Snitches, rats, cry babies, haters, it doesn't matter what they're called."
The item concludes with this: "So I'm gonna play nice, and when you least expect it, I'm going to stab you in the back, too. EVEN IF I DON'T HAVE PROOF! IF I THINK YOU DID, YOU WILL BE FUCKED."
This invective alarmed one source, who reached out to Westword about Weed's past criminal history. Although Weed didn't want to talk about an incident he says took place in his teens and is currently before a judge who could expunge it from his record, he acknowledged previous felony-theft cases and a marijuana-related DUI in Gilpin County. However, he insists that these incidents are a thing of the past and portrays iBake as being part of his personal redemption story.
"I think I've done a positive thing, turned my life around from a life of crime to paying my taxes, running a successful business, a T-shirt company, a music recording studio and multiple different things," he says. "I was someone going down the wrong path, but I've turned that around and done something with my life."
In terms of his current legal difficulties, Weed explains his theory about why iBake Denver is legal.
"One thing we've stressed is that we're not a marijuana club" — at least not technically, he maintains. "We're kind of like a Costco membership pipe-and-tobacco shop. There are exemptions to Colorado Clean Air Act rules about smoking inside a building, and those include retail tobacco shops, which must have 5 percent of their sales go to tobacco — and that includes snuff, chewing tobacco and cloves."
That's close. The State of Colorado's list of exemptions to the Clean Air Act includes "Cigar-Tobacco Bar," as long as such businesses meet the following provisions:
• Licensed under Article 47 of Title 12 CRS
• Liquor license primarily for sale of alcohol, food is secondary
• 5% or $50,000 of annual gross income from sale of tobacco, tobacco products and rental of on-site humidors. Not including sales from vending machines.
• Must have met this threshold in calendar year ending December 31, 2005
• If revenue falls below this threshold, cigar-tobacco bar designation will be lost
• Cannot expand or change size and location as of December 31, 2005
In regard to Adams County, Weed maintains that when he was first opening iBake Denver, a county employee told him that he didn't need to change the zoning from its previous designation as a motorcycle accessory sales shop — "which I didn't really understand, but I could only go by what she said." Then, after 7News quoted an official who talked about zoning violations, "we went down to the county to get a use permit for a pipe-and-tobacco shop, and the woman told us we didn't need to, because we're not a marijuana business. You're only a marijuana business if you sell marijuana products or grow them, and we don't."
Meanwhile, Weed is consulting with attorneys and has launched a GoFundMe page for donations to help pay for them. The introduction to the page — which, at this writing, has raised just over $400 toward a goal of $10,000 — contains a fuller explanation of Weed's argument in favor of iBake Denver's legality. The text is below.
iBAKE Denver is the Denver Metro Areas 1st place to legally consume cannabis. It has been open for 3 1/2 years in Adams County Colorado (6125 Washington St. Denver, CO 80216 - www.iBAKEDenver.com)
Not long after cannabis became legal in Colorado (February 15th, 2013 to be exact), Thurlow "TL" Weed and his wife Littletree Oppy (LT) opened "The 24 Hour Pipe & Tobacco Shop, which soon became known as iBAKE Denver. During 2014 & 2015 during a time when "marijuana smoking clubs," "marijuana consumption sites" were being shut down, iBAKE Denver not only stayed open, but they even opened other locations!
iBAKE Denver is a membership pipe & tobacco shop, that allows it's members (who MUST be 21 or older with a valid ID) to consume cannabis onsite. When first opening up, the TL & LT were informed what to do to open up within the county, and they took care of everything they were suppose to according to the county.
Now 3 1/2 years after being open, after paying taxes, and bringing a positive impact to the surrounding community, Adams County has decided that they no longer want iBAKE Denver open, and they are trying to shut it down, citing that the proper use permit was never acquired to open at the location. They stated that they did not know that iBAKE was in business, and had they known they would have shut it down long ago.
The problem with this is they did know iBAKE was open! We have proof, from multiple Fire Inspections, minor code violations (that are listed on the public Adams County code violation website), to minor police contact at the shop. There is no doubt that Adams County knew that iBAKE Denver has been open for business.
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We have found legal counsil and have retained the counsil, but there are still lots of more legal bills to pay. We are looking for donations that will help us to continue the fight to stay open. The county is shooting to have iBAKE Denver shut down in June 2016.
It's not right for a city, county or state government to close businesses down just because they don't care for the certain type of business....