DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s medical-marijuana regulators are renting office space from a lawyer whose clients include pot sellers the agency is charged with overseeing.
The Denver Post reports that the state Department of Revenue’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division will pay attorney H. Alan Dill nearly $1.3 million in rent over the five-year term of the lease, which was signed in December.
The agency moved into the space near downtown Denver in May, after remodeling work done at Dill’s expense. The leasing documents list Dill as the landlord.
Dill is managing partner of a Denver law firm with offices directly across the hall from the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division’s new space.
The coziness of the quarters has raised some eyebrows in the medical-marijuana community, some of whom are suspicious of the enforcement division.
“As high of standards as the MMED tries to hold the industry to, they should also try to hold themselves to high standards and avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” said Laura Kriho of the Cannabis Therapy Institute.
Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch denied that the lease arrangement creates a conflict of interest.
“The fact that they may have business before the state doesn’t mean they will get special treatment from the state just because they’re our landlord,” Couch said.
Dill did not return a call from the newspaper for comment.
The MMED is responsible for regulating thousands of dispensaries, makers of marijuana-infused products and pot-growing facilities. The division has had its eye on Dill’s space since it began looking for a new office last summer, according to documents obtained by The Denver Post under the Colorado Open Records Act.
On Aug. 9, Dan Hartman, who is now director of MMED, sent an email to the tenant broker asking the broker to make sure the office space would be on the list of candidates.
“I have seen this space and think it really works well for us,” Hartman wrote.
Couch said he didn’t know specifically why state officials chose the space. The Department of Revenue declined to make Hartman available for an interview with the newspaper.
While Dill’s law firm’s website says the firm represents “a number” of medical-marijuana businesses, the documents provided paint a foggy picture of how much contact the firm’s attorneys have had with MMED officials.
In one e-mail, an MMED staffer forwards Hartman’s contact information to Alan Dill, noting that Hartman “mentioned that he recently met with you.”
In another e-mail, an MMED employee sends another attorney at the law firm, Robert Dill, a letter from Hartman thanking Dill for his participation in the agency’s rulemaking advisory group.
“Your assistance in creating the first round of Medical Marijuana rules is very much appreciated,” Hartman wrote.
Several people in the medical-marijuana industry declined to comment on MMED’s lease deal, not wanting to be seen as critical of an agency that regulates their businesses.
Medical-marijuana attorney Sean McAllister said he had heard about the lease arrangement but said it would be unwise to jump to conclusions.
“I have total and complete faith in the integrity and ethics of Dan Hartman and the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division,” McAllister said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)