By Greg Campbell, FACE THE STATE
On Tuesday, Estes Park, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, became the latest Colorado municipality to ban medical marijuana centers, commercial grow operations and infused-product manufacturers. New regulations adopted after the last legislative session allow local governments to vote such businesses out of town, and Estes Park joined a growing number of cities and counties doing just that.
The difference with Estes Park, however, is that the small town did not have any dispensaries in the first place, nullifying the sometimes-messy question of whether to grandfather existing businesses or shut them down. Soon after the industry began exploding elsewhere in the state late last year, Estes Park adopted a moratorium before any dispensaries could take root.
The lack of existing businesses might help shield Estes Park from the threat of litigation, or at least keep it off the radar of proponents’ lawyers. Although allowed under the new legislation, the option to ban is held by many medical marijuana patients and advocates to be unconstitutional. Prominent MMJ lawyer Rob Corry of Denver had threatened to sue the town of Castle Rock if it goes through with a plan to shut down its only dispensary through a ban narrowly passed in September, and a coalition of lawyers sued El Paso County (unsuccessfully) to prevent a county-wide ban on the November ballot from being counted.
Numerous other jurisdictions face similar votes, with the results to be known after next week’s election. Should any of them succeed in shutting down existing pot shops, it could be an expensive victory for those who would celebrate it. As pointed out recently in Westword, affected businesses could sue the banning jurisdiction for the value of their operations.
“The court did say there are other ways you can recover,” lawyer Bob Hoban told the publication after a judge denied the request for an injunction in the El Paso County case. “And that’s where we’ll have to focus our efforts going forward, assuming we get an adverse election result. And this is important, because we think the issue of compensation for businesses that are shut down is fundamental—a constitutional right. It’s a taking.”
The estimated tab for El Paso county in that event? Westword says it’s somewhere in the range of $24 million.