Colorado pot dispensaries face closure under tough law, Vail not affected

Posted By: The Ski Channel on July 29, 2010 1:51 pm

Nearly a fifth of Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensary operators could be barred from the industry under a new state law preventing certain convicted felons from participating in the pot business. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) estimates that upwards of 18 percent of current marijuana clubs may be disbanded by the rule.

The Colorado Legislature this year required medical marijuana businesses to obtain a state license in an attempt to standardize Colorado’s medical marijuana industry. To be granted a license, operators must pay substantial fees ranging from $7,500 to $18,000 and prove that they haven’t been convicted of any felonies in the last five years. Owners with past felony drug convictions face a lifetime ban from the marijuana business.

The felony figures, first reported by KUSA-TV, confirm the fears of those who predicted former drug dealers and drug users would flock to Colorado’s emerging medical marijuana industry, made legal in 2000 with an amendment to the state constitution. Factoring in less serious crimes, the DEA says about 28 percent of pot shop owners have criminal records for drug offenses.

The new findings are likely to vindicate some Colorado towns that still blocked efforts to open marijuana dispensaries, such as the ski town of Vail. The Vail Town Council voted to ban medical marijuana shops from opening in the town, citing the dispensaries wouldn’t add to the family-friendly image that Vail has leveraged to a position near the top of resort rankings in recent years.

An even bigger concern for pot shops could go into effect on September 1st, when medical marijuana dispensaries will be required to produce 70 percent of all pot sold in their business. The move could greatly affect smaller dispensaries such as those that opened in ski towns such as Breckenridge, which have mostly relied on outsourcing production to larger growers.

Medical marijuana was approved by Colorado voters over a decade ago, but was largely a none factor until last year when the federal government said it wouldn’t prosecute marijuana sellers who adhere to state medical marijuana rules. In addition, the state’s loose stance on how many patients a dispensary could offer pot to, resulted in the state’s rapid expansion to more than 1000 pot shops.