Medical marijuana appears to be headed for Grand County ballot
June 17, 2010
Gov. Bill Ritter has signed into law two measures intended to rein in the recent proliferation of marijuana dispensaries and growers in Colorado. One law requires that only doctors in good standing be allowed to recommend medical marijuana. It creates strict oversight of doctors making recommendations, red-flagging those that make too many. It also specifies the level of screening and follow-up that should be provided to patients using medical marijuana. The second law creates a uniform set of rules for marijuana dispensaries and growers statewide, giving municipalities the authority to allow or prohibit dispensaries by vote of the board or by referring a question to the voters. Citizens also may initiate the measure.Grand County municipalities seeking to put the questions to voters in the November election must let the county clerk and recorder know that they plan to do so by July 23. Ballots for the September election must be certified Sept. 3. As of October 2009, 101 patients in Grand County were registered medical marijuana users, according to statistics provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The actual number is likely higher today, said CDPHE spokesman Mark W. Salley.”The department has been inundated with applications in recent months,” he said. CDPHE receives more than 1,000 applications each day, and less than half of those are processed each day. “So, as you can imagine, we have a significant backlog,” he said. The CDPHE estimates that there are currently some 94,000 people on the registry in Colorado. Other aspects of the state law include:In places where dispensaries are allowed, the bill imposes a minimum 1,000-foot spacing requirement from schools, residential childcare centers and drug treatment facilities, but it allows local government to increase these distances.The law requires owners to undergo criminal background checks and meet residency requirements. And, it limits the hours of operation for “medical marijuana centers” to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Medical marijuana centers will be required to grow 70 percent of the marijuana they sell, a provision aimed at keeping tabs on where the drug is being sold. The legislation also regulates places that sell marijuana-infused products (such as baked goods) and independent growing operations not affiliated with dispensaries. State and local sales taxes will apply to the sale of all medical marijuana, the legislation states, allowing towns and counties to recoup some of the cost incurred by law enforcement and staff in places where medical marijuana centers are allowed. Localities that do prohibit the centers may not prohibit patients from growing their own medical marijuana or a caregiver from providing marijuana for up to five patients. The new law with regards to caregivers goes into effect July 1. For municipalities deciding to allow medical marijuana centers, local licenses can only be issued to applicants who have filed prior to July 1. A statewide moratorium on new medical marijuana facilities goes into effect July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011. Any municipality or county that fails to act on the new law by July 1, 2011, will automatically default to the state’s regulations regarding medical marijuana.The status of the issue in Grand County follows.Grand CountyOperating under a moratorium county commissioners extended to Dec. 31, 2010, commissioners have resolved to direct staff to form questions to put on the November ballot. While the county’s elected officials spent time debating the fiscal and social impacts of allowing medical marijuana centers, “It’s more up to the people,” said commissioner James Newberry.Winter ParkIn December, Winter Park became one of the first municipalities in Colorado to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries within town limits. Reasons given for enacting the ban included the more conservative cultural sensibilities of Winter Park’s visitors and protecting the safety of the town’s children.District Judge Mary Hoak upheld, June 9, the Town of Winter Park’s denial of a business license application from Jerry Hidoshi Inc. and Anthony Yu to operate a medical marijuana dispensary within town limits. Hoak ruled that the case was moot in light of the recent enactment of House Bill 1248, which allows towns and municipalities to ban medical marijuana facilities.FraserThe Town of Fraser, which recently extended its moratorium on dispensaries in town through November, will meet Wednesday, June 16, to discuss options for complying with the new state statutes. Town manager Jeff Durbin said the planning commission has in hand a draft zoning ordinance to allow medical marijuana centers within certain areas of town. Durbin said the town board may also choose to put the issue before voters on the ballot in November. GranbyThe Town of Granby passed an emergency moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in September 2009 and has since renewed that moratorium. The town board recently discussed putting the question to voters on the November election ballot about whether to allow medical marijuana centers in town. Grand LakeThe Town of Grand Lake is operating under a moratorium on medical marijuana centers within town limits. On June 14, the board talked about outright banning medical marijuana centers and is in the process of planning public hearings to that effect. “I don’t want to see [centers] in my little town. It would trash up the town,” said trustee Benton Johnson, who grouped medical marijuana dispensaries in the same category as adult book shops and strip clubs. If during the public hearings, however, the public speaks strongly in favor of putting the issue to vote, the board said it would also consider that possibility. The town’s timeframe is tightly constrained by the county clerk’s July 23 deadline for joining the ballot initiative. Hot Sulphur SpringsThe Hot Sulphur Board of Trustees adopted a moratorium in December 2009 that expires in September 2010. The issue of medical marijuana centers will return to the board’s agenda when it meets June 17. “The board has really just been in a wait and see mode,” said town clerk Sandy White. “They really wanted to find out what the state was going to do first and then figure out where we need to be.”Kremmling In March, Kremmling became the second town in Grand County and one of the few in the state at the time to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within its borders, after a unanimous vote of trustees.