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Denver City Council passes regulations on medical marijuana

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01/12/2010 03:53 PM
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Denver City Council passes regulations on medical marijuana
DENVER - The city council unanimously passed a bill late Monday night levying regulations on the booming business of medical marijuana dispensaries in the Mile High City.

The regulations were set to go into effect on March 1, but are subject to change depending on what type of bill develops in the state legislature.

Last week, the city council unanimously gave initial approval to the regulations in Denver. On Monday night, a packed house showed up to have their voices heard prior to the city council's vote.

"We just don't want to see access and safe access limited, or ordinances created that would create a burden on the patient," James Merklund said.

Dan Shaw said: "We feel that it's a good bill, and that its a reasonable bill and should be adopted."

The approved proposal prohibits dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, day cares and other dispensaries.

That was good news for Stacy Ashley, who told the council a dispensary was about to open up right next to her daughter's school.

"I think our children should come first, there's a reason why medical marijuana should not be distributed close to children," Ashley said.

The new regulations also bar felons convicted within the last five years from running shops.

"I ask that you only give me the opportunity to prove myself, I've paid for my debts, I'm a non-violent felon," Pierre Werner said. Werner scuffled with a would-be burglar at his marijuana dispensary in Boulder early Sunday morning, resulting in an arrest. A second would-be burglar escaped.

The regulations also instruct customers not to smoke on site.

"I worry we're going to introduce more problems and feel, as neighbors, powerless to do much about it," David Coldiron said.

The city began placing a sales tax on dispensaries back on Dec. 1.

"I find it kind of incredible that a city government would be sitting down a way to shut down 300 new businesses in an economy that is down," Laura Kriho said.

Councilman Charlie Brown says at least 250 dispensaries are operating in the city, with 390 applying for licenses in what Brown says is the fastest-growing industry in the city.

"It has to be regulated, it has to be licensed, and that's what this is all about," Brown said.

New dispensary owners also have to pass a criminal background check to meet the city's regulations, after the vote passed by a 13-0 count.

"If you had a felony in the last five years, 'See ya, we don't want you in Denver,'" Brown said.

The regulations require a new dispensary owner to pay a $2,000 non-refundable application fee and $3,000 a year to renew their license.

"If you're going to complain about paying taxes and fees, then maybe you shouldn't be in business in Denver as well," Brown said.

Dispensary owner Miles Zalkin says the city's new rules mean legitimate operations, that help patients suffering from cancer, will stay in business.

"We're hoping that these types of deterrents will take people that shouldn't be in this business that are in it and knock them out when they go to apply for their license, which all of us are going to have to apply for," Zalkin said.

Several different bills about medical marijuana will likely be debated after the legislative session starts this Wednesday.

State Senator Chris Romer (D-Denver) tells the Denver Post that Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) will likely introduce a bill that would put a five person limit on the number of patients a pot provider, or caregiver, can serve.

Romer plans to support a different bill which would more strictly define the relationship between doctors and their marijuana-seeking patients.

[link to www.9news.com]