By Hap Fry
Shortly after Steve Ackerman was forced to close down his Old Town-based medical marijuana dispensary, Organic Alternatives, back on Feb. 14, 2012, he drove down to visit a friend’s north Denver dispensary.
It was there that one question kept popping into Ackerman’s head which he couldn’t let go. “All I could think about was: ‘why can’t I do this?’” Ackerman said. “I mean this is so normal, and it makes so much sense, and, yet, Fort Collins voted it out.”
Fort Collins did indeed vote out the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Nov. 1, 2011, but fast forward to Nov. 6, 2012 and medical marijuana dispensaries were voted back in with the passing of Measure 301.
Now, Ackerman and his Organic Alternatives partner Kirk Scramstad, along with owners of eight other Fort Collins’ based medical marijuana dispen- saries are in a holding pattern. They are all waiting for their operating licenses to be issued by the city and state. Those should arrive simultaneously once background checks clear.
“I think the licenses will all be issued at once,” Ackerman said. “I can’t see it happening before mid-April, and it may happen in mid-May, but it will be somewhere in there.”
In the meantime, dispensary owners like Dave Watson have been passing time by performing gen- eral upkeep within their business location. Watson spent the better part of a mid-March day painting up his business: Kind Care of Colorado.
“I’ve definitely put a lot more money and time into it now than when I had it running before,” Wat- son said. “The (licensing) fees have gone up, but it can’t really be about the money. It really has to be about taking care of your patients.”
Watson said the most disheartening carry-over from dispensaries being shut down in 2012 was that many patients were left with no place to go any- more for medical marijuana.
“The people I felt the worst for were the patients because they got used to going to a good safe place,” Watson said. “We had a lot of elderly folks who came in. There’s no reason for them to be standing under a bridge or hanging out on the cor- ner of a street somewhere. Hopefully we’ll be able to do enough good for the city that we show (the detractors) that we’re legitimate businesses.”
City Council member Wade Troxell has been a strong opponent of the operation of medical mari- juana dispensaries, but he’s not opposed to the use of marijuana, in certain situations, as some may be led to believe.
“I have no qualms about the legitimate use of medical marijuana for those people who need it,” Troxell said. “It makes sense on a lot of levels. What is of concern to me is how some of these businesses operate, in terms of being accessible to people who may not really need medical marijuana.”
Troxell was in favor of the ban on medical mari- juana dispensaries after Question 300 passed on Nov. 1, 2011. The results of last year’s Nov. 6 elec- tion, which included the passing of Amendment 64 for the recreational use of marijuana, have prompt- ed Troxell to say: “We have to fulfill the wishes of the voters.”
But he backs that up by saying: “Still, there is federal law against the use of a controlled sub- stance, and that must be taken into consideration. It puts a lot of people at potential risk. I’m con- cerned about how both (Measure 301 and Amend- ment 64) are implemented and more concerned about are youth, particularly those under 21.”
Neither Ackerman or Scramstad believe Amendment 64 will come into play any time soon here in Fort Collins.
“The earliest you’d probably ever see recreational facilities would be January of 2014,” Scrams- tad said. “They don’t accept applications until Oct. 1, and it’s written in Amendment 64 that they have
to take them by Oct. 1 and then they have 90 days to turn them around, but that’s the state. The state is not going to issue a license until local approval. The City of Fort Collins could very easily put a year moratorium on (Amendment 64). Year, 2015 is much more likely. It’s going to be really local by local by local.”
That being said, Troxell does not believe that Measure 301 would have passed had Amendment 64 not also been on the ballot back in November.
“I definitely think Amendment 64 swamped the local issues (Measure 301),” Troxell said. “I also believe there was some external funding that came into play with the local issue.”
Of course, medical marijuana dispensary owners also see things a little differently. They don’t believe Question 300 would have passed had it not taken place during an off-cycle election.
“That election in 2011 was a school board election essentially,” Ackerman said. “A lot of people who show up for the Presidential election don’t show up for the mid-term election. “We felt that election was not unfair, but the cards were definitely stacked against us. That’s why we decided that with a Presidential election coming up in 2012 that we had a possibility of overturning this. An important thing to note was that Amendment 64 and (Propo- sition) 301 both cleared by about 55 percent to 45 percent, which is a substantial win in any election.”