Marijuana: To sell or not to sell


Staff Writer

Marijuana sales — both medical and recreational retail — have been approved and accepted by Colorado voters, but the allowance for sale of the substance at a local level is still up in the air.

Several area government entities are in the midst of considering whether or not, and in what capacity, to allow for sales of both medical and commercial (Amendment 64) marijuana, with indications that the entities are split on the subject.

Archuleta County

On May 17, Archuleta County’s moratorium prohibiting new applications for medical marijuana dispensary licenses expires, leaving the county to decide if, where and how many dispensaries should be allowed in unincorporated areas of the county.

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

However, amidst the moratoriums, one dispensary opened, Good Earth Meds, and continues to be the sole dispensary in Archuleta County, with others prevented by the moratorium, effectively giving Good Earth Meds a monopoly.

Despite that, however, 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.

Because of that interest, Archuleta County Attorney Todd Starr met with prospective dispensary owners, as well as Good Earth Meds owner Bill Delany, last week to discuss how the county should proceed.

In briefing the Board of County Commissioners on the subject Tuesday morning, Starr indicated that the meeting with the prospective and current business owners was productive and, while recognizing that the BoCC was currently split on the topic of marijuana, said that most included in the discussion realize that having a monopoly in the county is not in the county’s best interest.

Starr suggested then, that the county could, at the end of the moratorium, again receive applications, but could look at limiting the number of dispensaries allowed in Archuleta County.

Starr also indicated that, by limiting the number of dispensaries allowed in the county, the licenses would be worth more, potentially allowing the county to raise application and permitting fees for the facilities.

Commissioner Clifford Lucero, who has previously spoken out and voted against allowing sale of marijuana in the county, asked about the status of recreational (Amendment 64) marijuana, to which Starr suggested that state rules and regulations are expected by October, with an application taking 90 days, meaning the first commercial retailer of marijuana wouldn’t be allowed before January 2014.

Lucero suggested it might be “advantageous” to wait for the state’s rules on Amendment 64 marijuana before the county looked at allowing additional operations, either medical or recreational.

To that, Starr responded that he was not sure there would be two votes among the commissioners to again extend the moratorium.

Commissioner Steve Wadley, pointing out that the state rules regarding medical marijuana are already in existence, suggested that it was, “Not fair to the people in the community to kick the can down the road for the next year.”

Lucero expressed his concern that additional marijuana facilities would make it easier for the area’s youth to get the substance, while Wadley expressed that he was against flashy signs on the shops or the use of marijuana symbols to advertise what the shops sell. Wadley has said several times that the county should allow additional facilities, but limit the number to three.

Further discussion centered on a scoring system to rank potential vendors who apply, in order to fairly distribute facility licenses.

Starr informed the two commissioners (Michael Whiting was absent) that he would likely come forward with recommended changes to the county’s medical marijuana ordinance at the first BoCC meeting in May, among those changes being a limit of three facilities.

Starr, too, noted that he could bring forward a moratorium on Amendment 64 commercial marijuana for consideration at the same meeting.

“Please, come forward with that,” Lucero said.

Town of Pagosa Springs

The Town of Pagosa Springs, too, continues to deal with the topic, having recently amended a town ordinance to be in alignment with the state concerning the possession of marijuana by individuals.

Now, town council is slated to hear the first reading of Ordinance No. 788 today (Thursday), which would prohibit marijuana establishments within town boundaries, both medical and commercial.

According to agenda documentation, the ordinance is, “An Ordinance of the Town of Pagosa Springs Amending Chapter 6 of the Pagosa Springs Municipal Code by the Addition Thereto of a New Article 5 Prohibiting the Sale and Cultivation of Medical Marijuana, Including Medical Marijuana Centers, Optional Premises Cultivation Operations and Medical Marijuana-Infused Products Manufacturing, and a New Article 6 prohibiting the Operations of Marijuana Clubs, Marijuana Cultivation Facilities, Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities, Marijuana Testing Facilities and Retail Marijuana Stores.”

The town’s current moratorium on medical marijuana operations is set to expire on July 30. The town, too, has had moratoriums in effect for the last several years.

Today’s meeting is scheduled for noon in the council chambers in Town Hall.

Mineral County

Also on the topic of marijuana is a legal notice published in this issue of The SUN.

That legal notice, from Mineral County, simply lists Ordinance No. 13-01, which prohibits the operation of marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing, testing and retail facilities.