MMJ shops down to 21 on Westside; city, state reviews continue
If it's seemed to you that there are fewer medical marijuana dispensaries these days, you're right.
As predicted by an industry representative 1˝ years ago, the number of stores has gradually been dwindling citywide. The Colorado Springs City Clerk's Office had received more than 170 preapplications for dispensaries before a deadline June 30, 2010. As of this week, the total of those operating and/or allowed to operate was down to 93.
The corresponding numbers for the Westside were 36 preapps in 2010, with 20 of those still being allowed to operate now. (The actual Westside total is 21 because a dispensary from elsewhere in the city - the Mountain Med Club - relocated to 22 S. Chestnut St.)
As for the other 16 from the original 36, City Clerk's records show that 11 withdrew or shut down on their own, 2 were denied during city review and 3 moved to other parts of town.
The term “allowed to operate” is used because the city and state are still reviewing dispensary applications out of 122 that were submitted citywide to meet a deadline of Sept. 30, 2011. Because of the time the reviews take, dispensaries without known violations have been allowed to keep their doors open in the interim, according to city and Regional Building officials contacted by the Westside Pioneer.
For the city, a little more than half of those reviews have been completed to date. An OK from the city qualifies a dispensary to be considered for a state license. Thirty have gained that license, while another 29 have the city nod but are still waiting on the state. On the Westside, out of the 21, just 6 have a state license, 8 have a city OK only, and 7 are still going through the city review process.
The reason it takes so long at the city level is a combination of stringent rules - many of them new - and a limited number of staffers to review them, local officials have told the Pioneer. “It's been really difficult to review,” commented Bret Veltman, a city planner assigned to the Regional Building Depart-ment. “The dispensaries have to prove they can meet the codes, but at first we didn't know what the regulations would be.”
In an added wrinkle, the federal government - which in 2008 had signaled that it would relax its enforcement of marijuana laws - last winter began cracking down on a law preventing dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools. That spelled the end for the Westside Wellness Center on Bott Avenue (960 feet from a daycare), which otherwise had qualified for a state license.
The citywide reduction had been predicted by Tanya Garduno of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council. In December 2010, she told City Council that eventually the city would settle out at 60 to 80 dispensaries.
Legal under Colorado law, MMJ dispensaries are only allowed to sell marijuana or its “infused” derivatives to people with “red card” doctor's prescriptions. The locations in the Springs are limited to commercial and industrial zones with distance limitations from certain types of socially sensitive locations.
Westside Pioneer article