Tuesday, January 12, 2010
DENVER - In front of a packed audience of medical marijuana supporters and opponents Monday evening, the Denver City Council voted unanimously to enact new restrictions on where pot dispensaries can operate, and who can own them.
In a 13-0 vote, council members voted to restrict dispensaries from operating with 1000 feet of each other, schools and child care centers. The new ordinance also denies people convicted of felonies within five years from obtaining a license to operate a dispensary, and also bars on-site consumption of marijuana.
Dispensary owners will have to pass a criminal background check, pay a $2,000 application fee, and pay $3,000 a year to renew licenses. The new rules will likely result in the closure of several dozen medical marijuana dispensaries which are already open for business.
Prior to the vote, the council heard public comments from both sides of the issue. Some 92 people signed up to speak.
"The whole country and many parts of the world are intensely watching Colorado. What we do here will effectively change the course of American history," said one man who opposes the new restrictions.
Many argued that Denver voters have repeatedly spoken on this issue, and have approved medical marijuana sales and possession in several elections.
"The council's haste and its arrogant disregard for the will of its constituents is completely unacceptable," one opponent told council members. "This is still a civil rights issue, a human rights issues, and it's a health issue, not a criminal issue," another shouted.
While the crowd may have been overwhelmingly opposed to the new restrictions, there were a handful of supporters.
"I want you to close all dispensaries which are already located 1000 feet from schools," one woman said. "I believe that (the dispensaries) just a target for crime," said another.
Rob Corry, a pro-medical marijuana criminal defense attorney, says he plans to sue Denver over the legality of the new restrictions.
City officials estimate there are 390 medical marijuana licensing applications pending approval.