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Larimer County Shuts Down Loveland Medical Marijuana Shop

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
A Loveland medical marijuana dispensary will have to close its doors by September despite pleas from its customers to keep it open.

The Larimer County commissioners on Monday voted unanimously to deny a land-use application for Organic Roots, a medical marijuana center at 418 Eighth St. SE. The industrial area that houses the center is just outside Loveland city limits.

The commissioners said the shop does not fit in with the area, which includes a few residential properties and may someday be annexed into the city of Loveland. City voters last year approved a measure banning medical marijuana businesses.

Placing a type of business that has been explicitly rejected by a community's voters right next to its boundary could be "pretty offensive to the sentiments of the community," said Commissioner Steve Johnson.

Johnson said he felt torn about the decision, especially since some nearby property owners spoke in support of the business and its owner, Jayson Specht, who bought the business 10 months ago. A previous owner had been found in violation of county zoning regulations and had the subject of complaints from neighbors.

But a land-use approval cannot be tied to an individual and there's no telling what issues might arise by having a mari-juana business in the area in the years to come, he said.

"I think there are reasonable doubts to the compatibility in my mind," Johnson said.

Supporters of the center argued it meets the needs of 285 patients who would have to go elsewhere to get medicine. Joan Whittaker said the business is well run and she feels comfortable going there.

"They care about their patients," she said. "It's not just another dollar coming through the door."

Commissioner Lew Gaiter said the commissioners understand there are legitimate uses for medical marijuana, but abuses can occur.

Gaiter said someone could buy marijuana at the shop and then walk to a nearby city recreational trail to sell it to someone else.

"It's not the legitimate patients, it's the people who may abuse the system," he said.

The center, formerly known as Nature's Medicine, has operated for nearly two years. The county banned marijuana dispensaries last year, but allowed businesses that were going through development review process to continue with the process.

Only two centers in unincorporated areas near Fort Collins have been approved by the county. Organic Roots is the only operating center to be considered by the commissioners.

Loveland officials had asked the county to not approve the business, citing safety concerns and the fact it would vio-late its land-use codes if and when the area were brought into the city.

"We do take that recommendation seriously," said Michael Whitley, a planner with the county.

The commissioner gave the center until Sept. 1 to cease operation. If it does not, the shop could face legal action.

Karen Richardson, who operates a sculpture supply store in a nearby unit, said she had no complaints about how Specht runs Organic Roots. But she worries about the impact the shop could have on the area and the potential to attract criminal activity.

"It brings that element of fear to a lot of people in the area," she said.

David Edwards, part owner of the building that houses the business, said the shop follows the state's strict security guidelines and has had no problems.

The shop has not drawn criminals the area and is not likely to start, he said. Illegal drug deals are done in playgrounds on the streets, he said.

"This is not a place where people buy illegal drugs," Edwards said.


NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: Loveland Connection (CO)
Copyright: 2011 Loveland Connection
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