Council moves to ban pot retailers

Grand Junction city council members have signaled their desire to do away with medical marijuana dispensaries.

After taking public testimony about the dispensaries, council members decided on Aug. 18 that they — and not the voters — would decide the fate of the shops. That fate now appears be to shuttering the businesses within city limits, according to council members at a workshop Wednesday night.

Centers that grow medical marijuana and cook edible medical marijuana products may also perish under the axe. City Attorney John Shaver said city staff would recommend that if council members banned pot shops, it would only make sense to ban the commercial supply chain.

While the seven members did not vote on either of those issues Wednesday night, a majority of council members said they would support banning medical marijuana shops and directed city staff to draft a resolution to that end. The council will vote on that resolution during a mid-September meeting.

Council member Tom Kenyon said he believed those who need the drug for medical conditions could still get it through caregivers, so closing the shops wouldn’t affect patient care.

“We are a pretty compassionate community,” he said. “With the caregiver model I still hope they’ll get their needs taken (care of). Understand that there’s still a lot of issues that don’t make sense to us.”

Council member Sam Susuras, and other council members, said they didn’t believe the proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in local communities was the intended result when voters passed Amendment 20 in 2000. The law allows those with a physician recommendation to receive a license for medical marijuana and grow medical marijuana or permit a caregiver to grow plants to help the patient.

“Medical marijuana centers throughout Colorado are not compatible with the vision and the comprehensive plan,” Susuras said. Susuras also questioned the message that having medical marijuana dispensaries in town sends to youth.

“Will it lead to legalization down the road? I think we should look at that,” he said.

Mayor Teresa Coons was the only council member that did not expressly say she would vote for banning the shops. She asked council members to consider medical marijuana outside of the context of the drug being illegal on a federal level, much like herbal remedies that line the shelves of the store Vitamin Cottage. Like marijuana, many of the store’s herbal remedies are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, though some people find the medicines helpful, she said.

“Nobody is in this room or up here saying we ought to shut down Vitamin Cottage,” she said.

The ban of cannabis shops in the Grand Valley is not a done deal. In late August, Mesa County Commissioners agreed to let voters determine whether medical marijuana shops should exist within unincorporated sections of the county. Voters will decide on that in November. Fruita allows medical marijuana shops with regulations in certain zones of the city. Palisade currently has one medical marijuana shop and a medical marijuana growing center, but is in the midst of a moratorium on future shops.


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