Denver Pot Dispensaries: 390; Colo. Starbucks: 208

Mile High City Called 'America's Cannabis Capital'

Marijuana advocates are hailing the Mile High City as "America's Cannabis Capital."

Denver smokes mega-cities like Los Angeles -- which has "Hollywood hype" and an estimated 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries -- when the number of medical pot dispensaries are calculated per capita, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Indeed, as the Denver City Council took its first vote Monday night to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, at least 390 dispensaries have applied for city sales tax license to sell medical pot as of Monday, acting City Treasurer Steve Ellington told TheDenverChannel.com.

That means Denver pot dispensaries outnumber by nearly 2-1 the 208 Starbucks in state of Colorado.

And there may be more dispensaries operating in Denver that haven't applied for a sales-tax license, Ellington added.

So, while the city of Los Angeles, with a population of 4.02 million, has one dispensary for every 4,065 residents, Denver (Pop. 598,707) boasts 1 dispensary per 1,535 residents.

In December alone, 200 dispensary entrepreneurs applied for Denver sales-tax licenses, Ellington said. The city is getting on average 25 sales-tax applications a day from dispensary operators.

Why the rush?

The draft ordinance, spearheaded by Councilman Charlie Brown, would bar dispensaries from operating within 1,000 feet of "any school or child-care establishment," or another pot dispensary. Dispensary owners also would have to undergo a criminal background check for felony convictions within the past five years.

But the draft ordinance would allow dispensaries that applied for a sales tax license before Dec. 15, 2009, to avoid the 1,000-foot restrictions.

That means a dispensary that was already licensed by that date and located near a school or child-care center could continue operating under the proposed law.

The City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and final vote on the dispensary regulation law Jan. 11, after allowing two hours of public comment.