Boulder medical marijuana dispensaries clear final hurdles

Seven Boulder dispensaries are among 26 in Colorado that so far have received their state licenses, marking the end of an arduous and expensive two-year process. Statewide, another 500 dispensary or “marijuana center” licenses are still pending confirmation of local approval and final inspections, said Julie Postlethwait, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. That’s out of an original 818 marijuana center applications. The Boulder businesses that received their state licenses are: Boulder Kind Care, Boulder Medical Marijuana Cooperative, Colorado Kind Care, Evolution, Good Humor Meds, Mike Squared and The Genetic Locker.

Lance Smith, one of the owners of Boulder Kind Care, said the process was difficult, but ultimately will help protect the medical marijuana industry in Colorado. “I don’t know that I could accurately describe how difficult it’s been to do everything you need to do to be in compliance while also making sure that you still have a business to license,” he said. “But because of enforcement, we are in a much better place than California because they will come out and shut you down if you are not in compliance.” Federal prosecutors have turned their sights on California’s medical marijuana industry after several years of a more hands-off approach. Smith said some of that enforcement is driven by local communities that are dissatisfied with how the industry is run, but are not empowered to regulate it. That isn’t the case in Colorado.

Boulder’s regulations were particularly stringent, but Smith said that he developed a good working relationship with all the inspectors. “We feel we are in the safest municipality in the safest state to doing this,” he said. Smith also thinks the industry needs to be out front in educating teenagers about marijuana as a medicine, not as a drug for recreational use, to help allay parents’ concerns about the industry. Frank Horwich, owner of Boulder Medical Marijuana Cooperative, said getting the license was “not nearly as scary a process as I thought it would be.” “We’d been paying attention all along, so we had a lot of things already in place,” he said. Horwich was formerly a securities broker, so he’s used to heavy regulation, but Colorado’s marijuana rules were developed on the fly and often open to multiple interpretations.

He said he found regulators to be reasonable about genuine misunderstandings. “The bulk of the regulations are fantastic from my perspective,” Horwich said. Smith said much of it comes down to common sense: Don’t sell to minors and people who don’t have cards. Don’t sell out the back door. Be transparent. Keep good records. The city has issued 73 marijuana business licenses, including grow operations. Another six are awaiting approval. City approval is a prerequisite for a state license. Thirty licenses were denied by the city. Of those, six have appealed the denials, and two have won their appeals, though the city plans to continue to contest one of those. Three of the denied businesses are still waiting for a hearing, and the one that lost its administrative appeal is appealing that decision.

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