Fort Collins marijuana centers to shut doors Feb. 14

Valentine’s Day won’t be so happy for 21 medical marijuana center owners who lost their right to have a business in Fort Collins after the success of city ballot question 300 on Nov. 1.

The last day of legal operation for the centers will be Feb. 14, according to the city clerk’s office. Owners estimate 200 jobs will be lost when their business close down.

By Michelle LeJeune

“This is nothing short of disgusting,” said Dave Schwaab, owner of Abundant Healing. “Everyone I know did everything legally. The damage (the vote) will do to the community is significant.”

He said that Abundant Healing alone has 20 employees.

But this may not be the end for medical marijuana businesses in Fort Collins. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union is currently exploring ways to preserve the industry, including putting an initiative on the city ballot in 2012. The union hopes to “renew commercial centers in Fort Collins and keep workers working,” according to Dan Rush, national director of the union’s medical cannabis and hemp division.

The two medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated Larimer County — Choice Organics at 813 Smithfield Drive and Flower Power Botanicals at 1308 Duff Drive — are not affected by the Fort Collins ban. The existing centers were grandfathered in when the county stopped issuing new licenses in 2010, and both are within a mile of the Fort Collins city limits.

Peter Verchick, owner of Flower Power, said that he hasn’t seen any uptick in business yet, but “I expect it to happen.”

His business, near the old downtown airport, is currently down 40 percent. New profits won’t roll in immediately, he added, because of the mandatory 120-day waiting period for centers to take on new patients.

Erica Freeman, who with husband Brian owns Choice Organics, said, “We anticipate (the Fort Collins ban) being good for our business. Our concern is waiting room times.”

There are nearly 15,000 registered medical marijuana patients in Northern Colorado. Flower Power is licensed to serve 300, while Choice Organics is licensed for 500.

Loveland, Greeley, Weld County and Windsor have all banned centers within their jurisdictions. A handful of medical marijuana centers are still in operation in Boulder County, Berthoud, Dacono and Garden City.

According to state law, in all cities and counties caregivers — a different category of operation than storefront dispensaries — can continue legally serving five patients and can sell medical marijuana out of their homes.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Colorado since voters approved Amendment 20 to the state constitution in 2000. House Bill 1284 gave local jurisdictions the power to regulate centers in 2010.

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