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High Times August 2011 - The Medicine is on our shelves
High Times August 2011 - The Medicine is on our shelves
Many medical marijuana shops might go up in smoke
DENVER - In Colorado, there are a little more than 1,100 medical marijuana dispensaries. By this time next month, half of them could close. Dispensary owners had to pass one hurdle Thursday, by submitting the proper paperwork to keep their shops open.
Thursday's registration deadline was based on the local level. On Aug. 1, dispensary owners will have to submit their state registration information. It could cost anywhere from $7,500 to $18,000.
Because of the high cost, the Department of Revenue believes half of the dispensary shops statewide will close down.
Ryan Vincent and his buddy J.J. Walker own the Health Center THC on South Colorado Boulevard in Denver. Over the last few days, they have been bogged down with paperwork for the July 1 local registration deadline.
"It was a nightmare," Vincent said.
The forms included a lot of requirements they never had to deal with before.
"Literally everything that we were planning on doing within the next year had to be done yesterday," Vincent said.
"The term I've learned a lot lately is 'shotgun wedding,'" Walker added.
Since they purchased their marijuana from a grower before and the new law says they have to grow 70 percent of it on their own now, they had two options. They could either merge their business with a grower, or rent a warehouse and grow their own marijuana. They decided on the warehouse.
"It has become kind of the Wild West," Mark Couch with the Department of Revenue said.
While the July 1 hurdle may have been a headache for dispensary owners, Couch says the state deadline on Aug. 1 will be even more difficult.
"We're going to look at credit histories and sources of funds, peoples' credit histories - all sorts of deep background checks," Couch said.
The state application is much larger than the local one.
"It's over 24 pages long for each of us," Vincent said. "It's the same type of application you have to have to open your own casino."
Despite the difficult work behind it, Vincent and Walker believe the new rules will be a good thing for medical marijuana dispensary owners.
"We can control our supply line now, so it does make sense for the state to do this. It was just hard to do it on this timeline," Vincent said.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)
Dispensaries hustle to clear legal-pot hurdles before moratorium begins
Posted: 07/01/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Hurry up, Colorado. There are only a few hours left to make your offer on eBay for this once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity.
The required opening bid: $120,000.
The prize: A medical-marijuana dispensary in Denver's hip River North neighborhood.
"Very exciting opportunity for the right buyer!" the listing proclaims.
As the clock ticks down on a deadline for medical-marijuana businesses to comply with new state laws, things in the industry have gone a little nutty. Sell-your-business-on-eBay nutty. Don't-know-if-you'll-be-open-tomorrow nutty.
"It's crunch day," Matt Brown, executive director of the trade group Coloradans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, said Wednesday. "So everybody's pretty stressed out right now."
Today is the last day dispensaries or makers of marijuana products can apply for licenses through their local governments before a statewide moratorium on new such businesses kicks in, Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch said.
Taking a different interpretation of the law, some cities, such as Colorado Springs, closed their application windows Wednesday.
Folks who don't meet the deadline will have to close their doors — or wait to open them — until July 2011.
Denver's Department of Excise and Licenses was humming Wednesday with the nervous energy of last-minute filers. The wait just to get to the counter stretched for hours, those in line said. People sat on the floor for lack of chairs.
"It's just nuts right now," said Deborah Orvan-Rosen, who owns a dispensary called House of Greens.
Orvan-Rosen said confusion over which licenses dispensary owners needed to apply for and when made the process more difficult. But she said she is no stranger to licensing paperwork, also owning a tattoo parlor, a barbershop, a flower store, a bail-bonds business and a crematorium. "They're all the same," she said. "They've all got headaches."
Today also caps a week of furious dealmaking between dispensary owners — who need to prove by Sept. 1 that they grow 70 percent of what they sell — and marijuana growers, who won't be allowed to freelance under the new laws.
Ryan Vincent, owner of the Health Center in Denver, said he went through 20 deals during the week before finding a grower and a growing space.
"Some people were trying to make us give up half of our company," he said. ". . . A lot of dispensary owners are out there trying to wrap up as many growers as possible."
Some dispensary owners just decided to cash out. There are at least three ads on Craigslist for people selling their dispensary.
The owners of the RiNo Supply Co. went to eBay to sell their dispensary, which they said is fully licensed. That auction ends today. As of Wednesday evening, no bids had been submitted.
Weighing the benefits of medical marijuana. Dr. John Torres reports. 9NEWS at 9 p.m. 04/30/10
IN THE WESTWORD
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IN THE DENVER POST
Banks wary of marijuana-dispensary accounts
UPDATED: 02/01/2010 01:00:43 PM MST
JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: new efforts to limit the sale of medical marijuana.
Last week, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance that would close many medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the city. The backlash is brewing elsewhere, too, including debate and a vote today in Colorado's Senate.
"NewsHour" correspondent Tom Bearden has our report from Denver.
WOMAN: I feel like my life is in danger. I did not purchase a house right here to feel like I can't go outside my front door.
TOM BEARDEN: For the past three months, angry residents have gathered in town hall meetings asking politicians to slam the brakes on one of the fastest growing businesses in Colorado.
MAN: We're gambling with our kids, our families, our own lives. And why not just stop everything until we actually learn something about how to run this industry?
TOM BEARDEN: The new industry is medical marijuana, specifically, the commercial dispensaries that have opened in neighborhoods all over the state. At last count, Denver alone had over 300. More than the number of Starbucks is the oft-quoted statistic.
Some residents are concerned the shops could lead to increased crime and encourage loitering near their homes. The dispensary industry has blossomed virtually overnight, with few regulations or rules, and left politicians at the state and local level scrambling to catch up.
Ten years ago, Coloradans voted to amend the state constitution to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical purposes. Subsequent state regulations limited caregivers to five patients a piece. But it was still against federal law. And police continued to arrest people.
So, for years, only about 2,000 people registered as patients. Then, a court threw out the five-patient limit. And, last year, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would no longer enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in the 14 states that allow its medical use.
Marijuana dispensaries began popping up everywhere. And the patient registry exploded to 40,000 people, with 20,000 more waiting for approval in the coming m onths. That's created a huge business opportunity for people like Ryan Vincent. He's a medical marijuana user himself to relieve pain from a degenerative eye disease.
He hated buying the drug in what he described as a back alley environment. So, in November, he opened up The Health Center, which offers patients a variety of marijuana products, from traditional leaves, to brownies, to topical lotions.
RYAN VINCENT, The Health Center: I have built a very safe environment for people. It would be very safe for my own grandmother to come in here. And that is kind of the idea of how we built this place.
TOM BEARDEN: But some people think too many dispensaries have opened up in far too many places. City Councilman Charlie Brown recently led the effort for a Denver law that requires any new dispensaries to be located 1,000 feet from schools and day cares and from other dispensaries. Brown says he knows more needs to be done, but it isn't easy.
CHARLIE BROWN, Denver city councilman: It's like trying to pick your teeth with a rattlesnake. If you ever tried that, you know how hard it is.
You know, you are dealing with medicine. You're dealing with patients. You're dealing with the dispensary owners. You're dealing with neighbors, and you're dealing with schools. It all -- you can't please everybody. And, so, you compromise.
TOM BEARDEN: Vincent says he welcomes more regulation and is working hard to show that he runs a legitimate business that is not some front for dealing drugs to recreational users. For instance, he accepts credit cards and will only pay growers and suppliers with checks.
RYAN VINCENT: If we say, you know, we would like to write you a check, and they say, no, no, no, cash only, we're not working with them. And the reason being is because, we are a business. And we want those tracked ratios. We want where our money is going. We want to have a paper trail. We -- you know, at the end of the day, that is how you do business.
TOM BEARDEN: One of the criticisms I have heard from people who are concerned about whether this is being sold indiscriminately are things like the names of the products, like Afghan Diesel, Durban Poison, Juliet, AK-47.
Does that hurt your cause when you try to establish yourself as a genuinely legitimate business, that you are selling a product that has a name like that?
RYAN VINCENT: We are trying to move away from those names. One of the things that we are actually working on doing right now with the growers is coming up with some names that might be more acceptable, something that more people can use, and it would make more sense to the patient.
TOM BEARDEN: But making marijuana use more acceptable is what has many residents like Christine Tatum-Thurstone so upset.
CHRISTINE TATUM-THURSTONE: The more of these dispensaries pop up, the more we normalize this, the more that we mistake this as a substance that doesn't have any problems. Basically, what Colorado has done is, it's using the medical community as a really cheap and easy -- and it's a really cheap, easy backdoor to legalization of marijuana.
TOM BEARDEN: As various local officials in both urban and rural communities wrestle with how to deal with the dispensary issue, most people are now looking to the state legislature for a more comprehensive approach.
State Senator Chris Romer, a Democrat, originally drafted a bill that would have required dispensaries to register their products in a database and provide other health services. But he says he couldn't get the support of other colleagues. So, he scaled his bill back to one that would put an end to the practice of dispensaries paying physicians to write prescriptions for medical marijuana.
STATE SEN. CHRIS ROMER, D-Colo.: You will no longer be able to have a dispensary that has a doctor on site who is paid per prescription, because I can't think of another circumstance in medicine where we actually pay doctors for each prescription they write.
TOM BEARDEN: On the statehouse side, Republican Tom Massey is working with law enforcement groups on a bill to reestablish the old five-patient limit and apply it to dispensaries.
STATE REP. TOM MASSEY, R-Colo.: I have had a number of concerns, complaints, questions, are we trying to put dispensaries out of business? And that's clearly not the goal of this. We're trying to make sure that we have a regulatory piece that works within the framework of the doctor-patient-caregiver relationship and honors the intent of the voter for the constitutional amendment.
TOM BEARDEN: Dispensary owner Vincent says a five-patient restriction with not only put him out of business; it would drive the marijuana business back into basements and back alleys.
RYAN VINCENT: It's going to go all back underground again, which is -- which maybe is what his idea is. And then we put it all back underground and we will tick off all of the neighborhoods. And then they will all vote it out.
TOM BEARDEN: Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers say they know, whatever action they take, the issue is not likely to be resolved this session. And they concede, everything would change if the federal government decides to go back to enforcing marijuana laws.
How do you craft a state law or set of state laws to deal with an issue that is still fundamentally illegal at the federal level?
CHRIS ROMER: Well, it's difficult, but we're working on that. And the Obama administration has clearly said the states can experiment with this and create our own model. I hope we ultimately can be the people who really create the best medical marijuana laws for those chronically-ill patients.
TOM BEARDEN: Today, the Colorado Senate passed the Romer bill. It now moves over to the House.