BoCC extends medical marijuana moratorium


Staff Writer

With the expiration of a moratorium banning new medical marijuana businesses looming, the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday afternoon that extends that moratorium one month.

The moratorium on the subject of medical marijuana was set to expire May 17, but, with Tuesday’s resolution, that moratorium now expires June 18 at 5 p.m.

The moratorium does not address recreational marijuana sales relating to the passage of Amendment 64 last fall.

In presenting the item at the BoCC’s regular meeting Tuesday, County Attorney Todd Starr said one of the main reasons for the extension of the moratorium is to explore the effect of allowing the businesses in industrial-zoned areas.

At the meeting, commissioners Steve Wadley and Michael Whiting indicated their desire to move on, with Wadley stating he hoped to have the subject of medical marijuana regulations “wrapped up in a month” and Whiting noting that, for him, the moratorium extension was for the “express purposes” of creating policies.

On several occasions prior to Tuesday’s meeting, commissioner Clifford Lucero spoke out against allowing marijuana outlets selling for either medical or recreation reasons.

The resolution, 2013-24, extending the moratorium, passed unanimously.

Archuleta County has had a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries for much of the last several years due to a changing legal landscape regarding federal enforcement and state regulation of the substance.

That history is noted within the wording of Tuesday’s resolution, which lists the county’s prior resolutions:

“WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners of Archuleta County, Colorado (the “County”) in the interest of protecting the health, safety and welfare of its citizens has previously enacted Ordinance No. 10-2010 providing regulations governing the establishment and operation of such businesses; and

“WHEREAS, in light of frequently changing legal issues surrounding Medical Marijuana, including the state and county regulatory schemes enacted to enable Medical Marijuana, the County adopted Resolutions No. 2011-18 imposing a moratorium, and 2011-25 and 2012-34 extending such moratorium, on the application for establishment and authorization of any business relating to Medical Marijuana, of any form, operating in Archuleta County;”

In extending the ban on new applications, the resolution further states:

“WHEREAS, the Board of County Commissioners does find that the legal issues surrounding Medical Marijuana continue to change including but not limited to the aggressive and seemingly inconsistent correspondence issued by various United States Attorneys; therefore, it is not in the best interest of the health, safety, or welfare of Archuleta County to expose its citizens or the governmental employees to the risks of the ever changing legal environment.”

Amidst the moratoriums over the last several years, one dispensary opened under county regulations, Good Earth Meds, which continues to be the sole dispensary in Archuleta County, with others prevented from doing business by the moratorium, effectively giving Good Earth Meds a government-endorsed monopoly.

Several parties interested in opening medical marijuana dispensaries in Archuleta County have approached county staff and commissioners over the last year, urging the county to lift the moratorium and giving more immediacy to the situation.

Following Tuesday’s meeting extending the existing moratorium, a work session regarding medical marijuana centers was scheduled for 1 p.m. today, May 9, in the commissioners’ meeting room at the courthouse.

That work session, Starr said in a Wednesday interview, will be used to receive direction from the commissioners about where to allow medical marijuana centers to operate.

In the interview, Starr again noted his recommendation to allow the centers within industrial zones, which would, essentially, confine any dispensaries to Cloman Industrial Park, located near the airport.

Good Earth Meds is currently located in Cloman Industrial Park.

In addition to the commissioners being present at the work session, Starr said, “I think the prospective proprietors have been invited.”

“The decision is clearly the commissioners’,” Starr said. “I think the voters of Archuleta County have spoken twice now in favor of that (marijuana).”

By inviting potential proprietors to the table at the work session, Starr said the commissioners will be able to hear the concerns of the industry in the move to draft regulations.