County’s marijuana sales moratorium could be reversed |

County’s marijuana sales moratorium could be reversed

FILE - In this July 31, 2013 file photo, a man smokes a marijuana joint, while Senators debate a bill at the Senate to legalize marijuana and regulate production and distribution in Montevideo, Uruguay. From the Americas to Europe to North Africa and beyond, the marijuana legalization movement has unprecedented traction, a nod to successful efforts in Colorado, Washington, and the small South American nation of Uruguay, which in Dec. 2013, became the first country to approve nationwide pot legalization. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, File)

While little progress has been made in lifting Grand County’s marijuana moratorium, it’s set to expire at the end of this year, bringing the issue back up for debate.

The Grand County Board of Commissioners in December placed a moratorium on entries to the county’s cannabis industry, barring applications and issuances of new licenses and permits for businesses that cultivate, process or sell marijuana.

The moratorium is set to expire at the end of this year, though the date is flexible, according to the board.

“We just wanted to recheck the ordinance and make sure that when we approved marijuana facilities we were doing it correctly, and looking at everything,” said Kristen Manguso, District 3 county commissioner. “It was really spurred on by the Winter Park issue.”

“We just want to clarify some of the things inside the ordinance so everybody’s very well aware of how to permit marijuana facilities in Grand County.”Kristen MangusoDistrict 3 county commissioner

The decision to impose a moratorium was largely a reaction to the new Serene Wellness dispensary in Winter Park. The dispensary, located near the eastern entrance to Winter Park, resides in unincorporated Grand County. The county board approved the plans for the shop, despite the town’s ban on the sales of recreational cannabis.

Winter Park filed a lawsuit against the county, but later dropped all legal action.

As tensions between the town and county came to a head, the county board decided steps needed to be taken to address concerns raised by the new dispensary.

“It turned out OK because we do have a good relationship with Winter Park, but if we can avoid any ambiguities or any misunderstandings in the future, that’s what we’re looking at doing,” said Manguso. “We just want to clarify some of the things inside the ordinance so everybody’s very well aware of how to permit marijuana facilities in Grand County.”

While county staff is currently working on updating the ordinance, the process of lifting the moratorium is still in its infancy. The county is planning on holding a public workshop to discuss revisions to the ordinance. After clarifications are made, the updated ordinance will then go through the county’s planning commission. County Commissioners will have final say on the changes.

“The board faced some interesting applications with both community support and opposition,” said Richard Cimino, District 1 county commissioner. “The board decided that their current hearing process could use an update to try and address the concerns of the opposition to applications and licenses.”

One of the issues raised during the Serene Wellness case was the issue of standing, as Cimino explained the question is whether or not elected leaders and business leaders get the same standing as regular citizens. Standing was only given to residents who lived within a two-mile radius of the dispensary. No special standing was given to elected officials or business owners. Those with standing are given the first right to comment and question the applicant. Only afterward are those without standing allowed to do so, and only if time allows.

“It’s a situation where the majority of those with standing supported it, but the majority of community leaders opposed,” said Cimino. “I’m not decided one way or another, I just want to discuss it publicly and really think it through.”

While the goal is to lift the moratorium in January, all three commissioners were optimistic that the goal will be met or that it will be lifted earlier.

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