Feb 142012
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

Tuesday, Katharine Garrido was a manager at Natural Alternatives for Health, one of the city’s last remaining medical marijuana dispensaries.

Wednesday, she said she’s filing for unemployment and starting her job search.

The ban on pot dispensaries around the city went into effect at 7 p.m. Tuesday, marking the final stage in what has been a divisive issue since the November citizen-initiated ballot measure that banned Fort Collins’ 23 dispensaries from city limits.

“I can move on from things,” Garrido said, with a glimmer of optimism. “The toughest part is when patients walk in and they start crying at the front desk because they’re worried about how they’re going to get this medicine.”

“I think that’s the toughest part,” she added.

Most shops had sold off all of their remaining pot products ahead of the Tuesday deadline, and any remaining plants at the time of inspection of the dispensaries will be confiscated and destroyed by state officials.

Fort Collins Police Services has been working with state officials and dispensary owners since the vote was finalized in November to ensure the shutdowns were enforced without incident.

“It’s been pretty straightforward,” said Sgt. Jim Byrne of FCPS. He said owners must have a clean record and be in good standing in order to reopen in new cities.

“We’re doing everything we can to give them the opportunity to do that,” Byrne said.

Setting up shop in new cities is becoming more and more difficult as decisions roll out from around the state banning pot from city limits.

Currently, a moratorium is preventing new dispensary licenses from being issued elsewhere in Larimer County, forcing those who want to move to look beyond the Northern Colorado region.

And while billboards continue to pop up around the area advertising dispensaries in Denver, that is not a viable alternative for patients, according to Garrido.

“If you’re in pain, you can’t sit in a car for that long,” she said, adding that patients with a debilitating illness like fibromyalgia need their medicines in an easy-to-get way. This, she said, is just not an option.

The ban is moving the system back to the patient-caregiver model like it was for nearly 10 years — something supporters, including the Concerned Fort Collins citizens, have said will reduce crime and marijuana within schools.

City council will decide in the coming weeks how the rules should be changed regarding plant limits and the number of patients a caregiver could oversee — a process Garrido said needs active input from the patients, not just the business owners and decision makers.

While all dispensaries are closing up shop within the city, Flower Power Botanicals and Choice Organics are exempt from the mandatory shutdown.

Sitting just outside of official city limits, Choice Organics owner Erica Freeman said that watching the shutdown has been tough, especially for the patients.

“We feel awful that the dispensaries have to close,” she said, saying that she is concerned where they will go now that it is, in a sense, underground. “The whole thing is about safe, public access.”

Flower Power Botanicals did not return calls from the Collegian at the time of publication.

While some would see the potential for increased business, the demand of shifting thousands of patients to just two dispensaries could be overwhelming, especially if grow-limits are not increased.

“We’re here for the patients,” Freeman said, adding that she hopes to keep a low profile and stay out of the spotlight as a dispensary, even as demand increases.

Though the pot-shop doors are closed for the foreseeable future, the issue is far from settled in Fort Collins and Colorado, especially as ballot issues surface for the upcoming state-wide November election that could legalize pot in varying levels.

But as for now, it remains unclear what will happen to the future of shops, patients and the dozens of employees who are now searching for their new source of income. To Garrido, it comes down to being educated, to ensure decision makers and residents understand the implications of their choices.

“I feel like the voters weren’t informed,” Garrido said with a sigh of dismay. “I feel like maybe they felt like they were voting to get rid of marijuana in general, but it’s not going anywhere.”

“It’s not going to go anywhere,” she stressed.

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm

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