Colorado's pioneering marijuana industry continues to break new ground, especially when it comes to confronting financial and legislative issues surrounding cannabis.
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Friday signed into law HB 1398, a bill that allows legal marijuana businesses in the state to create what the measure calls "marijuana financial services cooperatives," referred to in the statute as "cannabis credit co-ops."
Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and earlier this year Washington state and Colorado legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults.
A big challenge for Colorado's burgeoning marijuana industry is that most of its transactions are on a cash-only basis. That's because cannabis remains illegal on a federal level and most banks and financial institutions won't do business with marijuana-related businesses out of fear of federal prosecution.
In February, however, the U.S. Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, working with the Justice Department, issued guidance for financial institutions seeking to provide services to cannabis-related businesses. The goal? To promote "greater financial transparency in the marijuana industry and mitigate the dangers associated with conducting an all-cash business."
Those dangers are real. CBS station KCNC-TV, quoting data from the Denver police, says there were 40 burglaries and one robbery at marijuana businesses in the city during the first four months of this year.
Marijuana legalization in Colorado has already sparked innovation in the state – pot tours, anyone? – and now one company has even created a vending machine capable of dispensing the drug to legally verified users.
Designed and developed by American Green, the new ZaZZZ vending machine made its debut in Colorado over the weekend, and it’s expected to start dispensing snacks such as pot brownies in addition to marijuana in its original form.
Descried as “an automated, age-verifying, climate-controlled marijuana dispensing machine,” the machine will first be used at the Herbal Elements dispensary in Eagle Veil, where owner Greg Honan thinks it will make the business even more efficient
“We’re looking forward to using the ZAZZZ machine to easily track all this inventory … we’re gonna eliminate the middle man,” he said to local news outlet KDVR. “It’ll go straight from the budtender right into our machine. There’s no room for theft by patients, employees … there’s no way to lose track of the inventory.”
While such vending machines are technically used at medical marijuana dispensaries in California, their introduction in Colorado will mark the first time that customers will have direct access to a vending machine. Usually, they are located behind the counter and away from customers.
Those worried about under-age teenagers taking advantage of the machines, however, don’t have anything to fear, according to Stephen Shearin, the COO of Tranzbyte, the parent company of American Green. Speaking with Denver Post’s The Cannabist, he said the machine “uses the same technology that checks age/ID fraud under the Control Meth Act. Your identity is confirmed against active biometrics.”
Once a customer swipes their driver’s license, the vending machine uses multiple cameras to ensure the attributes of the individual standing before it match up accurately with what’s described on the ID.
Currently, the machine does not check for medical marijuana licenses, but Shearin said the company is “prepared to integrate” such features in the future, adding that since “people will be authorized in medical facilities before entry … internal checks will only bolster security and accounting for state and dispensary alike.”
As these direct-to-customer vending machines make their way into Colorado, Shearin also stated that, for now, he doesn’t see ZAZZZ or its next few models being used in public spaces, nor will it be used to dispense marijuana for recreational use.
We've got some surprising news. The Denver City Council is discussing instituting a city-wide ban on the outdoor advertising of MEDICAL marijuana in the city limits. And it was brought to them by another industry association! You heard that right, a segment of the industry is actively seeking to restrict your first amendment rights and limit your ability to operate your business as you see fit. Read about it here and here and especially here.
Help us fight the ban. Become a member now. Tired of short-sighted and reactionary policies being forced upon you by a small segment of the industry? Then take action NOW! Join us and help us put a stop to this silliness. Return reason and rationality to the decisions that affect your business.
At Cannabis Business Alliance, we believe in self-regulation and relying on creating industry best practices rather than government oversight. For the past 6 months we have been working with over 65 business owners, both members and non-members, to come up with a model for self-regulation. While our work on this will continue, we felt it important to get the agreed upon points out to the public sooner rather than later. If you agree with these principles, please become a member.
The “problem” that the Denver City Council is trying to solve actually has to do with the use of sign-spinners and what the city council perceives to be inappropriate targeting of non-patients and children. We agree that advertising should be patient focused, but disagree that the solution to the problem is an all-out city-wide ban. To make our position clear on the legislation that is currently moving through the Denver City Council, we feel a good compromise would be to allow advertising in places where MMCs are allowed to operate, either by state-law or city code.
The Cannabis Business Alliance is proud to work with other leading organizations such as ACT4CO, Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, Sensible Colorado, The Medical Marijuana Business Alliance among others on a unified response to a common cause: safe access for patients and a stable regulatory environment for small businesses.
The coverage shows that we together we are strong!
Medical marijuana power players write open letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh
By Michael Roberts Wed., Apr. 11 2012
Categories: Follow That Story, Marijuana
Today, eleven organizations associated with medical marijuana, including trade associations and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, have sent an open letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh. How does Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente describe the message at the heart of the document, on view below in its entirety? Before cracking down on the industry, please consider all the good things it brings to Colorado.
In Vicente's words, "We're asking him to take a look at the positive aspects, including increased sales tax revenues, enhanced security and the fostering of sensible local and state regulations."
Numbers are included to back up these claims. For instance, the missive notes that more than 5,000 people in the state have jobs thanks to medical marijuana, with ancillary support also provided to electricians, carpenters and engineers. Moreover, the industry generates "tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, with the first $2 million earmarked annually for programs critical to helping Colorado fight addiction and accompanying mental health issues. The Circle Program at Pueblo's Colorado Mental Health Institute was on its last legs before this new tax supported it."
Of course, letters to the U.S. Attorney on this topic have a spotty track record. After Walsh sent closure-threat letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools this past January, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett wrote to request that he leave Boulder MMCs alone. Instead, Walsh targeted several Boulder centers in his second wave of closure letters.
Even so, Vicente says he and the other signatories aren't worried about a backlash as a result of their outreach efforts. "He's been pretty responsive to a lot of inquiries made to him," he points out. "And this is really the first time most of the major players in Colorado have gotten together to send him a comprehensive, community-response letter. We really hope he'll take the facts and figures in there to heart and perhaps begin to respect the decision Coloradans have made to embrace marijuana as medicine, as well as the distribution system."
Equally important, in Vicente's view, is debunking the notion that pot from MMCs is ending up in the hands of kids. "John Walsh has consistently said he's going to keep sending out these rounds of letters until he feels he's stemmed the problem of youth access to medical marijuana. But he needs to understand that teens are not getting medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries. It's simply not occurring. These businesses are incredibly tightly regulated and create safer neighborhoods through the extensive use of security cameras and security guards, and by occupying otherwise vacant retail space."
While the letter avoids harsh criticism of Walsh, Vicente doesn't shy away from decrying closure letters sent to Boulder dispensaries near the University of Colorado campus. "For him to shut down these licensed businesses located by colleges, which are almost exclusively populated by adults, is absurd and an example of federal overreach that's out of touch with the community, and the needs of the community," he allows.
For the most part, though, Vicente prefers a less censorious approach. "We're encouraging the U.S. Attorney to take a more comprehensive look at the medical marijuana community and the positive things it brings to the table," he says. "Instead of exclusively focusing on his concerns about teen access, we want him to get a full picture of what an ingrained part of the Colorado community the medical marijuana industry and the patient movement has become."
Here is the full letter:
John Walsh, Esq.
United States Attorney
1225 17th Street
Denver, CO 80202
April 11, 2012
Dear Mr. Walsh,
As parents, patients, business owners, and Colorado citizens, we are concerned by the recent letters sent by your office demanding certain state-approved medical marijuana businesses cease operations.
Since the dawn of this new health care field, we have worked closely with Colorado state and local governments to safely regulate medical marijuana sales and production, and have made great efforts – and gone to great expense — to establish a thorough and safe regulatory structure. Because of this collaboration between stakeholders and state and local officials, Colorado has emerged as the model among states that legally recognize the medicinal value of marijuana.
We stand in unison with patients and governing bodies across Colorado in our active commitment to continue the careful implementation of a secure and community-minded system of regulation. Here is a partial list of our contributions to the Colorado community:
· We have provided vital medicine to 164,000+ sick and disabled Colorado citizens whose doctors have recommended medical marijuana to them.
· We helped author and endorse SB 12-154 to establish a responsible vendor program similar to what many Colorado jurisdictions currently require for alcohol sales.
· We are working with the Denver City Council to foster sensible regulations, including currently working on language to limit inappropriate advertisements, specifically public advertisements near schools and other sensitive areas.
· We worked with local papers, like the Colorado Springs Gazette, to establish community-conscious advertising with a proper healthcare focus.
· We employ over 5,000 Coloradans and provide them with a living wage so they can support their families. We also provide substantial support for ancillary businesses like electricians, carpenters, and engineers.
· Our businesses produce tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue with the first $2 million earmarked annually for programs critical to helping Colorado fight addiction and accompanying mental health issues. The Circle Program at Pueblo’s Colorado Mental Health Institute was on its last legs before this new tax supported it.
· We help create safer neighborhoods through the extensive use of security cameras and guards, by increased lighting in commercial areas, and by occupying otherwise vacant retail or warehouse space.
As committed members of the communities we live in, we believe in responsible regulation of this important, and growing, health care field. We also share your concern about teens accessing medical marijuana and have taken serious steps to reduce any redistribution. We welcome a thoughtful discussion about the potential areas for improvement in the current regulatory structure.
Association of Cannabis Trades for Colorado (ACT4CO)
Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA)
Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patients Rights (C4CPR)
Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council (CSMCC)
Green Faith Ministry
In Harmony Wellness Services
Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA)
Medical Marijuana Business Alliance (MMBA)
Women’s Marijuana Movement
United Food and Commercial Workers Union: Local 7
On Tuesday April 3rd voters in Lyons will be asked question 1 which if approved would ban medical marijuana centers in the town. This is a mail in ballot and can stmake defeat this measure with grassroots efforts and getting out the vote.
Here's how you can help:
Call and email your friends and family in Lyons and remind them to vote in Tuesday's election
Ask them to vote NO on question 1
Remind them to hand their ballot in person to make sure it arrives
Below is a draft email that you can circulate:
Subject: Regulated Marijuana is Safer!
On Tuesday, when mail-in ballots for our municipal election will all be mailed and the future of medical marijuana in our town will be sealed, do you want to say that you did everything you could to make sure Lyons allowed safe and accessible medical marijuana for patients, a regulated system that serves patients in highly secure and tightly regulated stores, and more than $20,000 in annual tax revenue that our town so desperately needs?
Even our mayor says that this vote could go either way. It’s going to be a close election where every vote will count. Please take the time over the weekend to make sure that your friends and family in Lyons have voted in the municipal mail-in election. Here are some ways you can help:
First things first, educate yourself!
Medical marijuana centers are safe:
They are robbed less frequently than banks or liquor stores, have more security cameras than nearly any other business in Colorado, require extensive and stringent background checks for employees and owners, cultivate in safe and secure industrial facilities rather than garages,
and never sell medical marijuana to people who don’t have a registry card from the state and a valid ID—in fact, there isn’t a single reported incident of a medical marijuana center selling to a kid in the entire state.
Medical marijuana centers contribute to our local economy:
They employ an average of 6-10 people in the retail establishment and other facilities; hire construction workers, electricians, plumbers, lawyers, accountants, and other contractors; lease retail and industrial space that may otherwise sit empty; and generated more than $23,000 in sales tax revenue for our town last year.
Medical marijuana centers provide critical care to people suffering from devastating conditions:
They allow patients a safe and professional setting similar to a pharmacy or medical facility to purchase medicine rather than pushing marijuana sales into homes or worse, public spaces;
offer appropriate varieties of medical marijuana that can be ingested in a variety of methods other than smoking, and create a safe space for patients to learn about this emerging medical treatment option from professionals and peers rather than through experimentation.
Remind people to vote on Facebook. Post the following message and ask your friends and family in Lyons to share it: “Medical marijuana centers in Lyons make our town safer, contribute to our local economy, and provide critical care to people suffering from devastating conditions. Vote no on Question 1 and turn your ballot in at Town Hall!”
Join our group on Facebook by visiting www.facebook.com/groups/DefeatTheBan/ to get the latest news on any last-minute developments or action alerts.
Call your friends and family to make sure they have voted. If they haven’t, talk to them about why you think regulated medical marijuana is better than a ban, and offer to pick up their signed and sealed ballot to turn in at Town Hall for them. You can turn in up to 5 ballots on behalf of other people.
Forward this message to other supporters. Spread the word to other supporters and make sure that they are getting active, too!
We know we can defeat the medical marijuana center ban, but we can’t do it without your help. If you can only take one action on the above list, that’s one step closer to defeating this misguided and ill-informed ban. Take the time today to ensure safe, regulated access to medical marijuana in our town!
Today the DOJ sent out another round of letters to MMCs they believe to be within 1,000 feet of a school. While this action was anticipated, the press release included a request that the public start reporting MMCs they believe to be within that distance of a school. This call to action will likely result in some MMCs being targeted by neighborhood groups, regardless of their distance from a school. If your business becomes a target of this kind of activity, please call us at 303-736-9442.
From the press release …
“If members of the public have information regarding a marijuana store they believe is within a 1,000 feet of school [sic] in their neighborhood or elsewhere they are encouraged to send an email firstname.lastname@example.org”
As many of you may have heard, we hit a glitch with transfers of MMD’s. As a solution, we have created the attached Affidavit in Support of MMD Transfer Applications, which will give us the proof we need to process the applications which fell into a procedural gap. Please forward it to your clients, or inquiries you expect.
Patient denial letters are rolling out and calls are starting to come in to CDPHE, lawyers, and MMCs. Rightfully so, there is quite a bit of frustration in the community. We are here to help.
Patients can appeal their denials or wait 6 months to reapply. The denial process requires a request for appeal to be submitted to CDPHE, and then they will have to appear in front of an Administrative Law Judge. This can be intimidating. For our members, we have partnered with the law firms of Hoban & Feola, Edson Maytin & Matz LLP, and Vicente Sederberg LLC to provide counsel in these hearings free of charge to patients of members of Cannabis Business Alliance.
Let’s work together to make sure patients are not further harmed in this situation. If you are a member and are interested in taking part of this program, please call 303-736-9442 or email us at email@example.com. If you are not a member, please consider joining our efforts by visiting our website
These attorneys are the best of the best in defending patient rights. We are thrilled to be working with them to achieve the best outcome for our patients.
Applications for OPC licenses are now available in the City of Denver for MMCs and MIPs that are on the Verified Establishments list with the Department of Excise and Licensing. The list can also be viewed here: http://denvergov.org/Portals/723/documents/Verified%20Establishments.pdf
Contact the Department if you are one of these businesses. 720-865-2766