As The Crow Flies: Denver Dispensary Distance Law

If you drive around the Denver area, you will have no problem finding a multitude of green crosses and wellness signs advertising a dispensary.  It might lead one to wonder how there can be so many dispensaries within such close proximity to each other.  Could they be violating any proximity laws?  The answer is simply, no.  

Whether retail or medical, marijuana dispensaries (see difference here: link to another blog describing them) must be 1000 feet away from one another to stay in accordance with the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code.  When this medical marijuana law was drafted in 2010, it required that dispensaries occupy a location 1000 feet, by the distance a pedestrian can walk, apart from one another.  This meant that the distance between two or more dispensaries would be calculated by the pathway created by following sidewalks and crosswalks.  When the new retail laws were being created in 2013, the required distance between dispensaries changed.  

On Monday, September 16th, 2013, the Denver City Council passed the Denver Retail Marijuana Retail Code.  Councilman Paul Lopez pushed for a revision within the document that changed the way the distance was measured between dispensaries.  Instead of measuring the distance by pedestrian access, it was revised to a straight line measurement, or as the crow flies.  

The dispensaries that existed prior  to October 1st, 2013 were “grandfathered in,” meaning they would not be in violation of the new law.  However, any new retail marijuana dispensaries would now have to follow the new guidelines; any new medical marijuana dispensaries are still subject to the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code and can locate themselves within 1000 feet of a dispensary measured as the pedestrian travels.

This leaves us with two sets of laws.  The distinction makes it extremely important to survey the area around a new potential dispensary location and keep the differing laws in mind.


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