Brian Ruden, right, owner of Starbuds recreational and medical dispensary in Aurora, gets his shop ready to open with the help of Sher Joudeh on Nov. 14, 2014. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

Metro Cannabis sues Aurora after being denied retail marijuana license

The city of Aurora “manipulated the process” of selecting who would receive a license to sell recreational marijuana in the city, according to a lawsuit filed by a business owner who was denied a license.

In the suit, Metro Cannabis, which sought to open a recreational pot shop, claims that Aurora miscalculated who should receive a license by improperly rounding scores.

DOCUMENT: Read the suit filed by Metro Cannabis

Metro Cannabis said a hearing officer for the city who heard the company’s appeal acknowledged “a clear mathematical error” but denied the license anyway.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Adams County District Court, is the first legal challenge of Aurora’s process of awarding recreational marijuana licenses based on a points system.

In August, Aurora awarded recreational marijuana licenses for 21 business that could open Oct. 1. Metro Cannabis was one of 58 applications the city received by the July 31 deadline.

In awarding the recreational marijuana licenses, the city took into consideration a variety of factors, including experience in the industry and assets on hand. Only the top four applicants in each Aurora City Council district were given a license.

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The lawsuit makes several claims against the city, including that the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division, or AMED, improperly ranked the applicants.

In some cases, when scoring the applicants, the city rounded up when it should have rounded down, and vice-versa, the lawsuit claims.

“… the process was in fact conducted according to a set of unwritten rules that appear to have been made up and changed at the whim of AMED officials,” the lawsuit said. “The result was that AMED failed to implement an objective and transparent process to award licenses to the most qualified applicants.”

Metro Cannabis is also claiming that the city, which said it uses three reviewers to judge the candidates, only used two when ranking its application.

“We should have had a license,” said Stan Zislis, a co-owner of Metro Cannabis group. “So we began our own analysis.”

Metro Cannabis is seeking a license as well as monetary relief.

Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman said he had not yet seen the lawsuit. However, he said all applicant were judged fairly and by three reviewers.

He said that even if the rounding mistakes were taken into account, it would have created a tie for Metro Cannabis and the finalist that placed fourth in the same council district already had a license and was further along in the process.

“We basically did this the same way for everybody,” Hyman said. “It was a standardized system and we feel confident we can defend it.”

Carlos Illescas: 303-954-1175, or

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