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BoCC imposes medical marijuana moritorium

The Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners imposed a 60-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday, and although the move effectively — albeit temporarily — outlaws new dispensaries, it leaves one existing business in legal limbo.

Bill Delany, owner of Good Earth Meds — the county’s first medical marijuana dispensary — said he had received verbal and e-mailed assurances from Rick Bellis, the county’s director of community development, that his operation was on firm legal footing. However, and following Archuleta County Commissioner John Ranson’s motion to adopt the moratorium, Delany asked, “Am I affected?”

County Attorney Todd Starr, responding to Delany’s question said, “You would be affected by a moratorium.”

“You’re saying patient-to-patient transactions are outlawed? That’s unprecedented,” Delany said.

It may be.

For example, the Durango City Council adopted a 60-day moratorium on issuing new business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries Sept. 1. However, and according to City of Durango Clerk Amy Phillips, Durango did not force the closure of the five dispensaries already doing business within the city limits.

Following brief banter between Delany and Starr, Starr suggested that he, Bellis and Delany should sit down and review the particulars before a final decision is made.

That said, the resolution appears clear in governing the establishment of new dispensaries and states “any applications for such businesses will not be processed during the 60 day period.”

Starr said Archuleta County’s entry into the moratorium milieu marks the second time a Colorado county has adopted such legislation. Starr said Grand County was the first with a 120-day moratorium.

While seemingly new for Colorado counties, towns and cities across the state have taken similar tacks as they struggle to reconcile the mandates of Colorado’s Amendment 20 legalizing medical marijuana with federal regulations and the desires of the their respective communities.

In fact, Starr said the county’s decision to impose a moratorium stemmed from a request from a town council-established medical marijuana task force, the task force asking that the county join the town in imposing a 90-day moratorium in order to allow time for both jurisdictions to adopt cooperative legislation.

The additional time, the task force said, would allow the town and county to pass regulations that would not conflict, but would create legislative synchronicity.

The commissioners’ moratorium decision marks a change in course compared to actions taken last week, when the commissioners directed staff to take the steps necessary to draft legislation that would put the onus of dispensary regulation on the town council by prohibiting all dispensary-related activities in Archuleta County — except within the town limits.

After Ranson’s motion, the commissioners voted unanimously to impose the moratorium.

“I think a 60-day moratorium is fair and good. We’re not sitting on our hands. We’re doing something about it. I think we need to take a little bit of time and do this right,” Archuleta County Commissioner Clifford Lucero said.

“The first discussion was for a 90-day moratorium, but we want to move on this as soon as possible,” said Commissioner Bob Moomaw.

The Pagosa Springs Town Council will decide whether to impose a moratorium of their own Oct. 6 during the regular town council meeting.

james@pagosasun.com