Pubdate: Wed, 11 Nov 2015
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2015 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Jon Murray


Denver's marijuana regulators are asking the City Council to expand 
rules that would bar any new players from entering the state's largest market.

For two years, a city moratorium aimed at controlling industry growth 
has allowed only existing medical marijuana businesses to open 
recreational dispensaries, grow houses or edible manufacturers. 
That's set to expire Jan. 1, a prospect that has had eager 
entrepreneurs and investors lining up.

But new proposals submitted Tuesday by Denver's marijuana policy 
office would extend the moratorium two more years. And a newly 
proposed moratorium would bar any new applications for medical 
marijuana business licenses during the same period.

The intent, city officials say, is to hit the pause button and give 
them more time to gauge the impact of the legal marijuana experiment.

But the scope of the city's proposal caught some marijuana advocates 
off guard, including at least one, attorney Christian Sederberg, who 
attended a city working group that served as a sounding board.

A battle is brewing ahead of a council committee hearing Nov. 24. 
Last week, Sederberg helped form the Responsible Cannabis Policy 
Alliance, which plans to lobby council members.

"This simply strikes me as protectionism for those industry 
participants that are pushing for this," Sederberg said.

He was a co-author of Amendment 64, which voters passed in 2012 to 
legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

On the other side of the moratorium issue are some long-established 
industry players, neighborhood advocates wary of more expansion and 
activists who opposed legalization.

Margie Valdez, a Golden Triangle resident who cochairs the planning 
and zoning committee for the Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation group, 
applauded the moratorium idea. She also supports city officials' 
neighborhood-focused proposal to require hearings with more scrutiny 
for marijuana licenses of all types when businesses seek to start up 
or change locations.

City officials say Denver has reached what they see as a marijuana 
industry saturation point. The city has issued more than 1,000 
licenses for businesses that operate in 440 locations to serve the 
medical and retail markets. Dispensaries of either kind are in 210 places.

Ashley Kilroy, the marijuana policy director for Mayor Michael 
Hancock, says the city needs more time to assess the effects of 
legalization before allowing further growth that could risk 
overproduction, potentially sending some legally grown marijuana to 
the black market.

"We already have an abundance of marijuana products in Denver and 
marijuana businesses in Denver," she said, adding that the city is 
home to about 40 percent of the state's licenses.

Since recreational sales began in January 2014, Kilroy says she and 
others have been surprised by the pace of license applications in the 
older, medical marijuana market, which has been open to new entrants.

But the notion that Denver has reached a saturation point divides 
Colorado marijuana businesses.

"What you're doing is the city and county is picking winners and 
losers in this industry," said Tyler Henson, president of the 
Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce. "By continuing the moratorium, 
it's saying that there's something wrong with this industry, which 
there's not, and it's boxing out those who want to get into this industry."

Striking a different note is the Marijuana Industry Group, which also 
represents some business owners. Its statement Tuesday said its 
leaders still were evaluating proposal details.

Although executive director Mike Elliott said market demand should 
drive expansion, he quickly added: "The marijuana industry has helped 
spark an economic boom in Denver, but at this point, it appears the 
number of businesses is in line with market demand."

Sederberg took issue. He said his policy alliance group includes 
established businesses, marijuana advocates and people who have spent 
money on plans for prospective businesses in anticipation of Denver 
opening up its market in two months - not closing it to them for longer.

Extended moratoriums would offer the only chance for major expansion 
to the holders of about 85 eligible medical marijuana licenses that, 
according to Kilroy, haven't been converted or expanded into the 
recreational side.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom