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Wake-Up Call: Pot proposal moves to public hearing

They weren't just blowing smoke. Last night, all thirteen Denver city councilmembers agreed to send Councilman Charlie Brown's proposal to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to a public hearing and official vote next Monday night.

But not before Councilwoman Carol Boigon raised the same spectre of her unpleasant pot experiences in the '60s that she had at the December 16 Safety Committee meeting. Boigon had a longer list of objections going into the meeting -- and had even suggested that council was moving too fast.

Too fast? At last count, close to 400 dispensaries have applied for sales tax licenses -- double the number that had applied by December 15. That makes medical marijuana this city's major growth industry.

Study the topic any longer and that number could move into four digits.

"I will not propose a packaging/warning amendment tonight," Boigon had told councilmembers in a memo sent before the January 4 meeting, "but have Denver Health pediatrician Dr. Paul Melinkovich looking in to effective options for protecting children through packaging and warnings. Human Services is seeing problems but I do not want to waste your time if such measures cannot be effective. The issue around mj is troublesome because the substance is delivered in ways that match various child friendly treatments and treats, from asthma inhalants and vaporizers to cookies and butter. If Paul finds some measures that are effective practices with other drugs, I may bring a separate bill later if those measures seem adaptable to mj and enforceable."

Boigon did propose one amendment regarding the cultivation of marijuana, but it was voted down; from the start, Brown proposed leaving the regulation of grow operations to the state.

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Council did accept one amendment: At the December 16 meeting, a divided committee had agreed on January 1 as the date after which businesses applying for licenses would be subject to 1,000-foot buffer zones around schools and daycares, and even around other dispensaries. But Brown was more than willing to compromise on that even as he left the meeting, and last night council voted to change the date to December 15.

But under this proposal, no matter when they got their sales-tax license, all dispensaries will have to apply for a new dispensary license by March 1, and that license comes with a host of requirements -- including background checks and hefty fees -- from which no one is exempt.

The public hearing on the bill will be held on January 11, at the meeting that starts at 5:30 in room 450 of the Denver City & County Building.

Let's hope Boigon doesn't have a flashback.

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