Dino Salvatori, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Wellness Center in Lakewood, fills a medical marijuana prescription for a patient in July 2011. (Lindsay Pierce, Your Hub file)

Lakewood vote on recreational pot sales: opposition staying busy

LAKEWOOD — As proponents and opponents square off over the fate of retail marijuana in Lakewood, predictions have ranged from the gates of hell opening to an ambivalent non-concern on the impacts of money and weed on the community.

Ward 1 Councilwoman Ramey Johnson made a dire prediction at a July 14 city council meeting, citing concerns that players in a billion-dollar industry would stop at nothing at influencing Lakewood voters.

“That money’s going to come pouring in from out-of-state folks to influence the vote,” Johnson said. “The gates of hell will open regarding money pouring in.”

So far, pro-marijuana organizers have sat on the sidelines while opposition groups have been hard at work raising money, knocking on doors, placing yard signs and getting the word out on what they say will be a litany of problems should retail marijuana arrive in Lakewood.

“We’re going to be doing some radio spots, targeted TV ads just for Lakewood, maybe some mailings,” said Dan Cohrs, chief financial officer for Colorado Christian University. “We’re trying to figure out every way possible to prevent this terrible idea from coming to Lakewood.”

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Through Oct. 8, the two registered anti-marijuana committees — Yes on 2A and Colorado Christian University — had raised a total of $9,226 while the pro-retail group Responsible Lakewood had raised zero funds.

Responsible Lakewood founder John Lord, owner of multiple dispensaries, declined multiple requests for comment.

Tom Ford, the manager of Kind Pain Management at 2636 Youngfield St., said his company has not advocated for retail marijuana stores for fear of repercussions but is ready to move forward should 2A pass.

“We’ve been a pretty good model business for medical marijuana in Lakewood, and we’ve proved we’ve learned how to do this in a really good way,” Ford said. “We’re absolutely ready to move into the retail part of this industry.”

Amendment 64 allowed local governments to set their own rules for recreational marijuana businesses, including banning them entirely within their borders.

In July, council voted to ban marijuana cultivation, testing, manufacturing, hash-oil production and smoking clubs while deciding to let voters decide the fate of retail stores in Colorado’s fifth-largest city.

Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy said he didn’t support Amendment 64 but feels there have been few to no problems with medical marijuana dispensaries in Lakewood. If 2A passes, the city would take the same prudent approach in regulation.

“I could tell you this: The retail shops would be very limited if this passes,” Murphy said.

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According to the Lakewood Police Department, 16 dispensaries have opened since 2009, with 12 still standing. There’s been a total of 12 burglaries and one robbery at the pot shops.

The two sides of the retail marijuana debate each has a long list of statistics and anecdotal stories to support their stance.

Opponents speak of businesses moving out of Lakewood because of marijuana and teen use skyrocketing.

“There’s the edibles that look just like candy, and think of babies and toddlers landing at the ER,” said Lisa Young, a parent of a Lakewood High teen and member of Parents for Healthy Colorado.

She pointed to research that shows brain development is still taking place well into people’s 20s, and teen drug use can throw that off-kilter. “If marijuana disrupts these kids’ brains, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances will be, because their futures will be shot,” Young said. “That’s what’s frustrating to me, is that parents aren’t outraged by this.”

Proponents say it’s all much ado about almost nothing, with crime rates and teen marijuana use dropping and many of the dire predictions about medical marijuana dispensaries never coming to fruition.

“I absolutely believe legalizing marijuana is the way to go,” said Ward 1 Councilwoman Karen Kellen. “For Lakewood, for the country, let’s legalize it, regulate it, control it and get it out of the hands of the cartels.”

Austin Briggs: 303-954-1729, abriggs@denverpost.com or twitter.com/abriggs

This story was first published on DenverPost.com