Frisco marijuana dispensary scraps construction near Holiday Inn
April 17, 2015
Jerry Olson with Medical Marijuana of the Rockies is two weeks away from permanently shuttering the oldest dispensary in Summit County.
The dispensary owner, who opened shop in Frisco shortly after the state gave medical centers the go-ahead in July 2009, quietly announced through an ad in Wednesday's Summit Daily News that he is closing and must liquidate his inventory.
Under Colorado law, Olson is required to lease a zoned and approved structure before selling marijuana. Otherwise, he's limited to six plants and 2 ounces of cannabis, just like any medical user. And he can't sell weed of any variety to patients after his lease at 720 Summit Blvd. is terminated on April 28.
Olson ran the ad almost two months after he and nearly a dozen partners were named in a federal racketeering lawsuit. New Vision Hotels, owner of the Frisco Holiday Inn, partnered with the Washington, D.C.-based lobbying organization Safe Streets Alliance to file a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit on Feb. 19 that called for the end of the marijuana business in Colorado.
The suit came shortly after town officials passed an updated ordinance to redefine zoning regulations for marijuana businesses. This ordinance paved the way for Olson's new, 10,000-square-foot retail dispensary and grow site in a near-empty commercial building called the Holiday Center, which is located next door to the Holiday Inn. The lawsuit ground those plans to a halt.
"As a result of everything that's happened from the fallout with the lawsuits, I no longer have a space available," Olson said. "I have to liquidate my inventory and sell my store."
Along with eye-catching sales — $120 per ounce for medical patients, nearly $80 less than the average price — the closing ad also included a link to Olson's FundRazr page, a Kickstarter-esque campaign launched to raise $500,000. At press time, the two-day-old campaign has seen five contributions totaling $320.
"Holiday Inn and the federal conservative lobbyist group Safe Streets have more resources than me," Olson wrote on the FundRazr page. "I am being buried in legal procedure and my company has not only lost the contract to buy the building (where) we were locating our business, we are going bankrupt, being closed down, and still must defend this lawsuit for myself and the rest of the industry."
Olson estimates he has lost more than $150,000 since the RICO suit was filed. The estimate includes legal and planning fees, along with roughly $50,000 in materials for the Holiday Center complex.
The new dispensary, which was originally slated to open the first week in April, was roughly two or three days away from completion when property owner Bob Haussman sent Olson a cease and desist order in early April, Olson said. Haussman could not be reached for comment.
Around the same time, Holiday Inn dropped three parties from the lawsuit, including Haussman and two others with a stake in the property, Christine Voutour and The Managers Inc.
"We reached a settlement agreement with the people who currently own the building," said Brian Barnes, legal representative for Holiday Inn. "They have been officially dismissed from the lawsuit and as part of the settlement, we have a contract to purchase the building."
Barnes declined to comment further on the lawsuit, which is still active and names Olson, along with several investors. Phone calls to Haussman were unreturned as of press time.
Without the Holiday Center property — and with his current lease ready to expire — Olson says he and his business are faced with very few options. He doesn't want to close shop, but between strict state laws and two months of financial hemorrhaging, the FundRazr campaign is one of his final options.
"I've been trying to turn this situation into something that's no worse than the catastrophe it already is," said Olson, who founded the Frisco dispensary to serve patients legally under Colorado's new medical system. "It's a sad thing — I have a lot of patients who depend on me and I want to do all I can to help them, the people who've been with me as a caretaker for so long."
PATIENTS, PROPERTY AND POT
Despite losing his business, Olson is committed to fighting the RICO lawsuit. It's unclear how the case will move forward once Medical Marijuana of the Rockies shuts down — the cultivation and medical center licenses are still valid, even without a storefront — and Olson sees the suit as an attack on the entire marijuana industry.
"I don't see this as a reason to quit defending medical marijuana in America," said Olson, who was a medical patient before becoming a dispensary owner. "It's an attack on the democratic process at the moment. People should be able to provide medical marijuana and retail marijuana to individuals seeking knowledge. If you're asking if I want to shut down my business, the answer is 'no.'"
Olson and his attorney, Adam West, also believe the lawsuit is a roundabout way for the Holiday Inn to secure a lease on the Holiday Center complex, valued at $585,000 during 2014 appraisals. When ordered to halt construction, Olson was operating under a lease and did not own the building or any attached units.
"The timing of the civil RICO case and the baseless nature of the case lead us to conclude that the whole purpose of the lawsuit was to scuttle the alleged sale of this building to Mr. Olson," West said. "We feel very confident that this lawsuit will be dismissed and dismissed quickly."
West says he will file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Barnes declined to comment on the terms of the contract to purchase the Holiday Center complex.
As the RICO case moves forward, Olson is still mourning the inevitable loss of Medical Marijuana of the Rockies. The new dispensary and grow would've created nine jobs, all of which were already filled in anticipation of the April opening date. His seven current employees will also be jobless by the end of the month. Yet the patients — and future of medical marijuana as a whole — still weigh heaviest on his mind.
"Medical marijuana has had an astronomical influence on my life," Olson said. "It's changed it, and I don't want to quit sharing that opportunity with other people. That's the reason I started doing this in the first place. It's a little sad that people out there are more concerned about money or some other agenda, so much that they won't stand up for people who need that support."
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