Grand County postpones medical marijuana zoning
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado
The distinction of whether some marijuana caregivers in the county operate “home occupations” – like someone who sells Mary Kay – was a matter of debate during a Grand County hearing Tuesday on the regulation of pot dispensaries.
Medical marijuana provider Ernie Roybal, for one, objected to the county’s approach that caregivers be treated in the same regard as public pot dispensaries, subject to stricter zoning laws.
County Commissioners held before them draft amendments to the county’s zoning regulations that would restrict dispensaries to only business zones in the county. Proposed setbacks of 1,000 feet could further limit the available places for dispensaries to 25 potential properties.
But Roybal and other state-registered caregivers made the point that cultivating medicine for a few patients is not the same as opening a storefront where medical marijuana patients can come and go.
Roybal said he cultivates medicine for about 13 patients from his Fraser Valley home, and it would be unrealistic for him to have to rent a location to accommodate a full-fledged dispensary business.
The changes to zoning as designed could create more pot stores than intended, he and other Grand County caregivers told commissioners.
“The way you’re trying to make it is make us into drug dealers,” said caregiver Jim Strickland.
Colorado’s Constitution states that each medical marijuana patient is entitled to three producing plants. If they are unwilling or unable to grow those plants, they may seek marijuana from a registered caregiver.
Some caregivers deliver the marijuana medicine to their patients, and some patients only seek the medicine on occasion.
Strickland asked commissioners to consider that some patients are too sick or have concerns of privacy and would rather work with a caregiver than go to a storefront to get their medical marijuana.
But County Attorney Jack DiCola said zoning laws are put into place to address possible impacts to neighbors.
It could be argued, the attorney said, that growing pot at one’s home to provide to patients constitutes a business – whether for-profit or nonprofit – making it subject to zoning laws.
A medical marijuana provider’s establishment could easily create increased traffic, he said. County Planner Kris Manguso added that growing operations were considered the same as dispensaries for their safety and fire concerns, and for the possibility that neighbors to a marijuana provider may have objections to that residential use.
The county proposes that medical marijuana center operators, including caregivers and dispensary owners, apply for special use permits annually for a fee of $1,800 to allow for members of the public to comment on them.
Commissioners clarified during the meeting that they were not against medical marijuana, but were concerned about how marijuana centers should be regulated.
Yet, commissioners opted to wait until after state legislators adopt laws on the regulation of dispensaries before they make decisions on how Grand County will treat them.
They continued the public hearing to 10:45 a.m. on June 15 and extended the moratorium on pot dispensaries in Grand County to June 16.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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