Denver hoping to prevent another marijuana ‘green rush’

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Greg Campbell Contributor
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Denver’s city council, in an attempt to prevent being overrun by ganjapreneurs once the state allows marijuana to be sold from retail locations, is considering banning new businesses from applying for licenses until 2016.

The city has more than 200 medical marijuana dispensaries, which will be allowed to convert to retail locations beginning in January. Existing dispensaries can also operate as a combination retail/medical outlet, as long as a wall separates one from the other and each has a separate entrance.

The move is meant to prevent a glut of newcomers, according to the Denver Post, when the city starts accepting applications for retail sales on Oct. 1.

In late 2009, the city was overrun with medical marijuana dispensaries that ran the gamut from seedy to swanky, earning a stretch of South Broadway, a major boulevard that became home to dozens of such businesses, the nickname “Broadsterdam.”

“We have more or less a known universe of businesses on the ground,” Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell is quoted as saying. “These will be the ones in the game and able to convert.”

Colorado voters legalized marijuana when they passed Amendment 64 in November. It’s currently legal for adults to possess, cultivate, trade and consume small amounts of pot. The law also allows marijuana to be packaged and sold from retail stores, pending the adoption of a regulatory framework. The Department of Revenue is currently drafting regulations to oversee the industry.

But the law also allows individual municipalities to opt out of allowing marijuana retail stores and several cities and counties have done so. Those that will allow them are bracing for impact, individually weighing such options as local taxes, whether to set pot stores’ hours of operations and land use rules.

Denver alone has a list of 39 pot-related issues to deal with.

“This is going to be like watching sausage being made,” Councilman Charlie Brown is quoted as saying in the Post. “This is going to be nitty-gritty, line-by-line going through the issues.”

Statewide, voters will be asked in November to approve a combined 25 percent tax rate for marijuana sales — a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent special tax. Denver city council has already agreed to ask city voters to add on another 5 percent municipal tax, which could generate $9.2 million per year.

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