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Registered: 06/25/08
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Loveland, CO Dispensaries Shutting Down
    #531444 - 02/28/11 01:59 AM (7 years, 2 months ago)


Today is “Customer Appreciation Day” at Mountain Medical Leaf, a medical marijuana center near the corner of Fifth Street and Railroad Avenue in downtown Loveland.

“Stop by for our last Blowout!!” reads the invitation on the store’s website. “Free food, giveaways, specials.”

And tomorrow, the dispensary will shut.

Loveland’s commercial me-dical marijuana industry hung in the balance last November, when Loveland voters were asked for an up-or-down decision on whether dispensaries and commercial-scale growing operations should remain in business.

By a gaping margin, they said “no,” and the clock began ticking on the March 1 deadline for business owners to shut down.

“If people really knew what we do, that wouldn’t have happened,” Mountain Medical Leaf owner Loren Tonsing said Friday, sitting in his office decorated with vintage Beatles posters, behind a desk where a dozen jars of marijuana buds were on display for customers.


“There was a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding. It’s not like we’re all just sitting around getting high.”

Many of Loveland’s 11 marijuana businesses that were operating on Election Day have shut down.

For example, the Smithstonian Cannabis Club, one of the city’s most prominent, shut down two weeks ago. Others had closed shortly after last fall’s election.

“We had seven stores open last week,” said Jim Wedding, Loveland’s sales tax revenue manager and the city official who most closely tracks the industry.

“They’re all undergoing audits to determine that they’ve paid the proper amount of sales tax and that they were reporting correctly. It’s obvious that a lot of the stores that the auditors have been into are winding down. There are boxes everywhere, and they’re getting ready to move.”

Others who have been in the business are retooling, using the equipment that supported indoor marijuana farms for other purposes.

From Pot to Hops

“I’m going to be growing hops and brewing beer,” said Ivan Warehime, who before the election had been the principal spokes-man for industry trade group Loveland Association for Wellness, formed to wage the campaign to remain in business.

Warehime’s Medicalm LLC will close Monday, and the store’s growing operation was dismantled last week.

Tonsing is exploring ways to continue serving Mountain Medical Leaf patients. He co-owns a dispensary in Lyons and will continue to operate his indoor farm in Boulder County, where the climate for medical marijuana is more inviting.

“If we have to, we’ll offer to bring them down to Lyons,” Tonsing said.

Smithstonian Cannabis Club owner Gene Stires, who formerly operated the Honnda Doctor automotive business at the same location at the northwest corner of First Street and Lincoln Avenue, said he would return to the car business.

“I’ve always done hot rods and cars, so I’m just going to go back into that,” Stires said, adding that he will not miss the marijuana business one bit.

‘Kind of Relieved’

Provisions of the Medical Marijuana Act of 2010, the state Legislature’s oft-criticized framework for regulating the industry, made his business too cumbersome to operate, he said.

“With all the new stuff they popped up with since we opened, it just wasn’t enjoyable anymore,” Stires said. “Once it was voted down, I was kind of relieved.”

Loveland Police Chief Luke Hecker said he has no plans for stepping up enforcement after Monday’s closure deadline, believing that the business owners are smart enough not to risk taking their enterprises underground.

Qualified patients can grow up to six plants at a time in their own homes, and certified caregivers can legally have as many as five patients — and 30 plants in their possession.

The rationale behind the March deadline was to ensure an orderly dismantling of the commercial medical marijuana industry, Hecker said.

“My expectation is that they have used that time to make sure that their operations were ready to close down,” he said.

“After that, we’re going to adhere to and enforce the Colorado statutes related to controlled substances.”

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