Families worry pot grows are near homes, school

Posted at 1:49 AM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 03:49:05-05

Neighbors in a predominately Hispanic area of Denver say commercial marijuana grows are overtaking their neighborhoods and making life difficult for their children, who have to deal with the constant smell on a daily basis.

Denver7 found grows located near a school and close to homes, and the city says their location is perfectly legal. But the location of grows and their concentration in certain areas has both residents and council members pushing for change.

"It's overwhelming to see the number of grow facilities in the last two years that have moved into their industrial landscape in that neighborhood," said Albus Brooks, Councilman for District 9.

A recent proposal introduced by Denver City Council Member Robin Kniech is aimed at providing some relief to these neighborhoods. Kniech suggested putting a cap on marijuana-related businesses. The idea was presented at a Marijuana Moratorium Committee meeting this week and is in its early stages.

Parents said they can smell marijuana near Bruce Randolph School. Luz Lomeli sends her two daughters there and said the smell is typically strongest in the back of the school near the soccer field. City records show a registered marijuana grow is located nearby.

There are days Lomeli tells her daughters not to go outside because of the odor.

"They stay inside the cafeteria, they stay inside the school, which at the same time... I do feel bad because, I mean, they do want to come out especially if it's a nice day," said Lomeli.

Unlike retail marijuana stores, there are no distance restrictions about grows being located near schools and homes. Medical and recreational marijuana storefronts must be located 1,000 feet from schools, according to Denver City officials.

Public hearings are only required for medical marijuana dispensaries and retail stores.

Denver7 analyzed marijuana grows by council district. According to city records, District 7 has the highest number of grows/cultivations at 197, District 8 comes close at 153 and District 9 has 130. Despite those numbers, five council districts have zero grows located within their boundaries.

Owners of marijuana grows and dispensaries say Denver zoning regulations place limits on where they can set up shop.

"The only reason the grows are concentrated in certain areas is because that's where we're allowed to be," said Brian Ruden, owner of Starbuds.

Ruden said city zoning laws force them into industrial areas, and some just happen to be by neighborhoods. Industry leaders also said it can be challenging to find space to lease.

"The larger industrial parks are usually nationally-owned, then we touch federal regulations so they don't normally want to rent to cannabis businesses," said John Lord, CEO of LivWell Enlightened Health.

Several Spanish-speaking residents testified at a recent council committee meeting, including Carmen Garcia. She spoke with Denver7 with help from a translator.

"Just because we're poor it's not fair that they bring these kind of businesses here. These kind of things do not happen in rich and wealthy neighborhoods," said Garcia.

The Marijuana Moratorium Committee meeting is taking place on March 2 at 1:30 p.m. Council members will hear concerns from community members, constituents, and industry leaders regarding this draft proposal to cap marijuana businesses.


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