NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The Town of Granby is moving forward on its plan to annex nearby land in Colorado on January 1 to prevent a marijuana business from launching on the property.

“It indicates that while marijuana is an industry that is thriving and becoming more accepted, there are huge pockets even in legal states like Colorado where people see marijuana as the devil’s weed,” said Rob Hoban, a marijuana attorney in Denver.

Hoban has filed a lawsuit opposing the annexation.

“The town council is holding up my client from being licensed and thus preventing him from earning money, paying tax dollars and hiring employees,” Hoban told MainStreet. “It’s a narrow minded few that made a decision based on fear. City officials cannot get their head around the fact that when you legalize or regulate something, it eliminates social problems.”

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It’s the second time Granby has threatened to block a pot shop from opening.

“Each instance reveals that not everyone is in favor of marijuana legalization and not everyone wants marijuana businesses operating in their area,” said Leo Shalit, a cannabis attorney in Great Neck, N.Y. “The more opposition that occurs, the harder it will be to convince the United States government to enact meaningful changes to the current federal marijuana laws.”

Granby is just one example of a local government opposing medicinal or recreational marijuana across legal states. A ban in Yakima in the state of Washington earlier this year forced GFarmaLabs CEO Ata Gonzalez to postpone his plan to build a grow facility there when recreational marijuana was legalized statewide on July 1.

“The worst case scenarios include potential investigations from local and/or federal prosecutor offices as well as eventually asset seizure and legal recourse is almost entirely limited to litigation through the state courts, including utilization of the appeals process, in order to challenge this type of conduct by local governments,” Shalit told MainStreet. Although the state attorney general’s formal opinion that allows a local government to ban recreational pot licenses in Washington does not carry the full weight of the law, it carries the formal weight of the state attorney general.

“It is too early to determine whether the actions by towns opposed to legalization are effective because litigation through the court system is a long process,” Shalit said. “These high court rulings will have a significant impact on shaping the future cannabis industry in those specific jurisdictions.”

Like in Washington, Colorado’s Amendent 64 that legalized recreational use on January 1 also empowered governments to ban marijuana locally.

“That’s been the biggest political reasoning we’ve heard from these local politicians, which has emboldened certain towns to exercise this right but Granby is going to extraordinary means to annex an unincorporated part of a county to stop marijuana,” Shalit said. 

—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley