Summit marijuana stores scramble to get compliant with state | AspenTimes.com

Summit marijuana stores scramble to get compliant with state

Robert Allen
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

SUMMIT COUNTY – Local medical marijuana dispensary owners were scrambling this week to keep their doors open.

Sunday is the deadline for the centers – as defined by new state laws – to apply for a state license. The next opportunity will be summer 2011.

“I’m getting ready to deliver a bible of paperwork,” said Cory McNeill, owner of the Breckenridge Loft. “The most highly scrutinized license ever given out in American history makes it very nerve wracking.”

There’s a business application and a personal one. The latter requires a 10-year employment and business association history, detailed personal financial information, fingerprinting, copies of all higher education degrees and more.

Meanwhile local governments are dealing with their own stacks of paperwork. Breckenridge Town Council recently passed an emergency ordinance to allow two of its roughly seven dispensaries to change hands before Aug. 1.

And with another state legislative session convening before the year-long moratorium on new dispensaries ends, many attorneys expect the laws to change again.

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“It’s a moving target,” said Breckenridge town attorney Tim Berry, who’s re-drafting regulations for medical marijuana that comply with state House Bill 1284.

As storefront dispensaries began popping up across Colorado last year, Berry drafted a set of regulations that set an example for many other mountain towns. Changes with state law include creating three types of local licenses – storefront, growing and marijuana-infused (for edibles).

Sean McAllister, a local attorney who represents eight of the county’s roughly 10 dispensaries, said he’s been spending much of his time helping those clients get compliant.

“I’m swamped,” he said.

By Sept. 1, all the dispensaries that made it through the July 1 deadline for local approval and Aug. 1 deadline for state approval will have to prove to the state that they’re growing 70 percent of their own product.

This adds further to complications at the local level, as dispensary owners plead with their governments to let them set up marijuana farms. A local dispensary owner was denied a request of Summit County government last month to open a window in its moratorium and allow him – and possibly other business owners – to set up grow operations in unincorporated county land.

Other towns have similar moratoriums likely to prevent grow operations.

Berry said the language of the standing Breckenridge regulations makes growing operations possible in town limits, with a set of rules that include mandated air filtration.

McAllister said that with the state’s medical marijuana laws signed June 12, there’s “essentially six weeks to bring the an industry into compliance that’s been acting without regulation for 10 years.”

Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000.

“It’s very short-sighted, by this legislation they put everybody in a bad position: towns and dispensary owners,” he said.

McNeill said he expects his business to continue.

“It’s been very tough. It hasn’t been impossible,” he said, adding that finding a place to grow was more difficult than the paperwork.

Still, he’s clocked about 70 hours spent getting his applications prepared. The process is likely to deter many people, but McNeill said patients still need medicine in Breckenridge.

Meanwhile, he said other dispensary owners who were once very open with each other about their business plans have “become so closed off so quick.”

“How long will people tolerate the bureaucracy? How much money will be thrown at this?” McNeill said. “It’s anybody’s guess what’s going to happen.”

rallen@summitdaily.com