(Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
DENVER - Should recreational marijuana shops be allowed to be next door to each other? It is a question being raised by Denver City Councilman Paul López, as he proposes five amendments to the law regarding recreational marijuana.
Colorado voters approved the use and sale of recreational marijuana in November 2012. However, lawmakers in different cities are still working on rules surrounding the process. López is proposing five amendments that would, among other things, require that recreational marijuana shops not be within 2,500 feet of each other.
"[I think] 2,500 feet makes sense. That's roughly six blocks Six blocks in between each other from one pot shop to the other," said López.
The proposal would also require that the retail marijuana shops not be within 2,500 feet of a school, daycare or drug/alcohol treatment facility. Supporters of the marijuana industry say the proposed rule is overly-restrictive.
"No other business in the state is subjected to that 2,500 rule," said Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado. "They don't have to be 2,500 feet from another businesses like them ... and we think we should treat these businesses like other small businesses."
Vicente says small business owners in the marijuana industry would also be hurt by another amendment in López's proposal. That amendment would require pot shop owners to go through an approval and licensing process similar to the process liquor store owners undergo. The hearings would have to allow residents to voice their opinions and even present evidence and cross-examine witnesses.
"I think it's important that we have a process of public accountability where everybody ... an actually testify in support or against a license," said López.
But Vicente says that the licensing process would cause hundreds of new hearings and bring out people who want to repeal the law.
"What [López] is asking for is these businesses that have already been established and not registered any complaints, to open themselves to some potentially angry anti-marijuana zealots," said Vicente. "There are some people that would like to turn back the clock and put this vote behind us."
But López disagrees, saying that residents should be able to give their opinions on a business that will be in their neighborhoods. He also says he supports marijuana shop owners who operate under the law.
"What we want to be able to do is make sure that there is responsible regulations, so that responsible business owners, no matter where they are located, can actually succeed," he said.
Vicente, though, proposes a complaint-based system, instead of hearings that would be required before a business can open.
He added that that existing medical marijuana shops could be forced out of business, if the 2,500 foot rule passes. Vicente said, under current Denver law, medical marijuana shops are not required to be a certain distance apart.
"You currently have a lot of medical shops that spent a lot of money on infrastructure development of their business and integrated themselves in the community, that now would to either uproot and move to another part of the city or maybe another part of the state," he said.
López says his goal is not to hurt businesses. He is speeding weekends traveling to different Denver neighborhoods, to get feedback on the five amendments he is proposing.
"Folks from the community have actually been supportive. And a lot of these are a reflection of their ideas," he said.
López has developed five amendments. Besides setting limits for where marijuana shops can be located and requiring hearings, the other three amendments would do the following:
* Designate residents and city council members as "parties of interest" in hearings
* Allow all designated "parties of interest" to testify, present evidence and cross-examine witnesses in hearings.
* Mandate that "parties of interest" can change the time of a hearing to after 5 p.m., in order to ensure that residents who work during the day can attend the hearings.
López will present his proposal to a Denver committee on the marijuana industry, on Aug. 12.
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