ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In Denver’s hot housing market, the brick home in the 5000 block of South Irving Street might’ve sold instantly. In fact, it almost did and for all cash, until the buyer found out what would be her backyard neighbor.
“Because of the medical marijuana shop that`s going up there. She (home buyer) doesn`t want to live next to it, nobody does,” complained Consuelo Rodriquez.
The mother of two put her house on the market in December, two days after Englewood’s Medical Marijuana Authority voted 3-2 to allow a medical marijuana dispensary to replace Liberty Tax and Marina’s Miscelanea 2 (a Hispanic convenience store) on West Federal Boulevard near South Belleview Ave.
“I think it`s going to hurt the neighborhood property values, I think it`s going to raise the crime. I think it`s going to put my kinds in danger,” insisted Rodriguez.
She says the shop is too close to her son’s school bus stop and many of her neighbors agree. “It’s just not appropriate for a neighborhood that has children,” said neighbor Peggy Bogaard-Lapp.
Abdul Ayran owns the Stone Creek Café and feels the medical marijuana shop won’t be a good neighbor for his restaurant. “All the customers I have, they are a family, they bring their kids in here … one thing they don`t like to bring their kids next to is the marijuana store," said Ayran.
Seventy-five residents showed up at Englewood City Hall to protest the business application, but a volunteer board known as the Liquor and Medical Marijuana Authority still voted 3-2 to grant the license.
“It didn`t meet the requirement that our council set up for listening to the community,” complained city councilman Rick Gillit. It’s the city council who appoints members of the Marijuana Medical Authority.
Gillit said the volunteer board ignored a city ordinance passed just months earlier that allows the denial of a license if, “The licensed premises will impair the use or development of adjacent conforming properties or alter the essential character of the neighborhood."
Councilman Gillit complained the board, “Kind of lectured the residents that they needed to be educated about marijuana. They didn`t need to be educated about marijuana, the board needed to listen to the community regarding what they wanted in their neighborhood.”
None of the Authority members who voted yes would speak to us, nor would the owner of TDM, LLC the proposed medical marijuana dispensary. Instead store owner Mike Rasser wrote in an email, “I have no motivation to fuel the fire with the few individuals that will either not be swayed or only be swayed by the passage of time."
The president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, Tyler Henson, did agree to speak with us. “People are just afraid of the unknown,” said Henson.
He said the Marijuana Authority was appointed to weigh both sides, but not poll both sides to make a decision. “We can`t just deny businesses, legal businesses just based off fear alone by individuals.”
Henson said it will be the responsibility of Michael Rasser to prove he can be a good neighbor, “And then to prove that all of the myths around Marijuana and the dangers of it simply aren`t true.”
But some neighbors doubt they’ll be ever convinced. “I don`t think he can be a great neighbor. The best thing he can is not do what he’s intending by putting a medical marijuana shop in our neighborhood,” said neighbor Peggy Bogaard-Lapp.
“We’re the ones in the neighborhood, “added resident Patricia Ross. “This is our voice. This is the United States of America. We are supposed to have our voices heard.”
Homeowner Consuelo Rodriguez said she would never have predicted before she went to the public hearing that the vote would go against the overwhelming majority of neighbors. “It`s a community as a whole against this shop. There`s no way they`re going to deny the community and they denied the community.”
Now Rodriquez said the only way to make her voice heard is to sell her home.
It’s a choice her neighbors say they shouldn’t have to make. But unless neighbors decide to file a lawsuit, the medical marijuana shop is expected to open this fall. It will be Englewood’s third medical marijuana shop and the last one allowed under the city’s moratorium.