Wake-Up Call: Denver's pot pie still half-baked

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown has spent the last three months thinking about medical marijuana -- perhaps this city's only real growth industry -- and it showed yesterday, when council's safety committee approved his proposal for regulating dispensaries in Denver. The proposed ordinance will go to the full council on January 4, with a public hearing on January 11 -- days before the start of the Colorado Legislature's next session, where pot will be a hot topic.

"In the meantime, members of the public are welcome to contact us," committee chair Doug Linkhart concluded at the end of the three-hour meeting. "Particularly Councilman Brown."

The phones were already ringing as the councilmembers walked out of City Hall yesterday.

Two schools in southwest Denver were in lockdown after a robbery attempt at a dispensary in that neighborhood. And Stapleton residents are so upset about dispensaries opening near their schools that Michael Hancock, who represents that district, is contemplating asking for a moratorium on any new dispensaries until January 1.

As currently written, Brown's proposal allows any dispensary that gets its sales-tax license before January 1 to locate within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center, or another dispensary. After January 1, the buffer zones will be in effect. Brown's original proposal gave the cut-off date as December 1, but as he pointed out at yesterday's meeting, that gave businesses already in the works no advance notice.

Councilmembers were divided on the December 1/January 1 dates, though, and Brown is now contemplating a compromise of December 15. In the meantime, you can expect a big line of would-be dispensary owners getting their tax licenses this week.

"This is like watching a pie go through a python," Brown said at the end of yesterday's meeting.

And that pie's still half-baked.

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