Grand County puts medical marijuana on hold
September 22, 2009
Grand County has become the latest local government agency to declare a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries, joining Winter Park, Granby, Grand Lake and Fraser.
Businesses that sell medical marijuana to state-registered patients will not be allowed to set up shop in the unincorporated county until Jan. 1, 2010.
County officials intend to establish medical marijuana regulations under zoning codes, ones that may align with the regulations towns adopt, they said.
Grand Lake Town Manager Shane Hale, who attended Tuesday’s county commissioner meeting along with Winter Park Manager Drew Nelson, said from his perspective, placing a moratorium was a prudent move to address issues such as how close to schools and churches marijuana dispensaries might be located. Signage is a concern as well.
For example, do communities want to allow “a neon pot leaf on the side of a building?” Hale asked.
The 2001 voter initiative to allow the use of medical marijuana in Colorado does not include laws regulating dispensaries. So, laws addressing the dispensaries are being crafted on the local level.
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In March, the Obama administration announced a shift in enforcement of federal drug laws, backing off from frequent raids on distributors of medical marijuana in states where dispensaries are legal under state law.
This may account for the recent rise in activity related to medical marijuana businesses throughout Colorado, and the reason Grand County and area towns feel compelled to react, Nelson said.
County Attorney Jack DiCola pointed out that medical marijuana could be subject to sales tax.
As towns and counties struggle to regulate such businesses, there may eventually be a push for state oversight, said Nelson.
After all, he said, the state has licensing boards for professions such as dentists, doctors, and day care centers, why wouldn’t it regulate distributors of medical marijuana?
“I have not seen or personally talked to anyone who is running a dispensary in Grand County,” said Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson on Tuesday.
But when medical marijuana became legal, he said the state authorized the dispensing of a drug that has never been tested by the Food and Drug Administration. Rather, patients have access to a drug provided by “caretakers” who often just grow it in their basements, he said.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.