Denver's City Council approved a broad set of regulations for the city's booming medical-marijuana industry Monday night over the objections of dozens of cannabis advocates who say the rules clamp down too hard on their businesses.
The regulations require the licensing of medical-marijuana dispensaries, impose 1,000-foot buffers between the shops and schools or child-care facilities, bar on-site marijuana consumption, mandate certain security procedures and prohibit felons from opening a dispensary.
"We did our jobs, and we should hold our heads high for what we were able to do in this first phase," said Councilman Charlie Brown, who pushed for the ordinance.
The council unanimously approved the ordinance at the close of a nearly four-hour meeting. During the public hearing that preceded the vote, dozens of dispensary owners, medical-marijuana patients and cannabis advocates urged the council to reject the regulations, calling them unconstitutional and over-reaching.
Speakers particularly singled out the 1,000-foot buffers, which medical-marijuana lawyer Rob Corry said amount to a "de facto ban" on new dispensaries in Denver. Other speakers focused on the Dec. 15, 2009, cutoff date for dispensaries to be exempted from the spacing requirements, saying that it is unconstitutionally retroactive and would force hundreds of businesses to close their doors.
"Many of these regulations are not reasonable regulations," attorney Lauren Davis told council members. "They are strangulations that will hurt patients and caregivers."
A smaller number of Denver residents — including a trio of moms from the Stapleton neighborhood concerned about plans for a dispensary to open several hundred feet from a school — spoke in favor of the ordinance, arguing for even tougher spacing restrictions. They cited concerns about crime at dispensaries. Council members said they received phone calls and e-mails from many more residents expressing concerns about the explosion of dispensaries.