Medical marijuana ballot measures: Just don’t inhale
October 29, 2010
When it comes to voters approving or rejecting medical marijuana dispensaries, we’d like to suggest that they vote but don’t inhale. Of course, that didn’t work the last time it was tried, either.
Voters across Grand County are joined by municipal citizens in Hot Sulphur Springs, Granby and Fraser this election in deciding whether to allow the location of medical marijuana dispensaries and related businesses within their jurisdictions as well as whether to tax them (in the towns).
The optimal location for such businesses is open to debate, but what would be too bad is if all these measures were rejected.
After all, why should medical marijuana cardholders have to leave Grand County to buy their “medication?” While those quotes serve as acknowledgment that not all cardholders are legitimately in need of the drug, medical marijuana is indeed here to stay, seeing as voters made it a constitutional right in Colorado.
That being the case, there’s no sound reason to deprive cardholders of the convenience of shopping locally nor to reject out-of-hand the revenue opportunity offered by these businesses.
But do we want them in our backyard?
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One of the most frequently raised objections to these, uh, establishments is that they become magnets for crime. Two major studies this year – one of which was conducted in the city of Colorado Springs, not exactly a hotbed of libertine debauchery – debunk that notion. Both studies (the other one was in Denver) show no correlation between the location of dispensaries and a related increase in crime.
Nevertheless, we in the media seem to delight in publicizing every break-in during which a cannabis plant is pilfered no matter how otherwise insignificant the crime, so the widespread misconception comes as no surprise.
Another common myth is that the dispensaries will somehow attract hoards of potheads, which is patent nonsense. Cardholders are already here and they are already entitled to grow plants and imbibe in the weed to their hearts’ content. And don’t count on them fleeing to Summit County or some other similarly accepting venue just because there are dispensaries there.
The question then becomes: Is it better to know where most of these marijuana resources are located so they are more easily regulated, or would we prefer they be sprinkled willy-nilly across the countryside?
For precisely that reason, municipalities are the preferred venues for regulating, licensing and policing these businesses. And of all the towns in Grand County where they might be established, depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s election, Hot Sulphur Springs could be the best location of all.
For the record, elected officials in Grand Lake, Kremmling and Winter Park have already banned medical marijuana-related businesses from their towns. (It should also be noted that those bans do not preclude cardholders from growing and smoking their own.)
Hot Sulphur Springs could certainly use any tax revenues that might accrue from dispensaries to fund street improvements and other pressing town needs. Besides, the sheriff’s department is nearby in case something were to go awry, and the proximity of the jail and courthouse begs irreverent references to a handy client base. We can see it now: “Bob’s Bail Bonds and Herbal Remedies.”
The fate of the free world hardly hangs in the balance on these issues, and other issues at stake on Tuesday are of greater import. However, voters, particularly those in municipalities, would do well to approach this issue with open minds.
Voting against the dispensaries will do nothing to make medical marijuana – or recreational pot, for that matter – go away. Approving these businesses, on the other hand, would help legitimate medical marijuana users and potentially provide new revenue sources.
A word about wording
With the notable exception of Hot Sulphur Springs, voters might be forgiven for being befuddled when voting on these medical marijuana questions.
Only Hot Sulphur’s ballot asks the straightforward question of whether the town should “allow” these businesses. The other three ballot questions take the decidedly obfuscatory approach of asking whether the towns (or county) should “prohibit” the dispensaries.
Thus, in all but Hot Sulphur, a yes vote would prohibit dispensaries and a no vote would allow them. What were they smoking?