Top Story #4: Medical pot a burning issue

Whether elected officials or voters should decide if medical marijuana centers and grow operations should be allowed was the focus of hours of public meetings, debates and demon-

strations as municipalities tried to catch up to a burgeoning industry.

Two companion bills signed into law in June by Gov. Bill Ritter, House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109, opened the door for local residents or their local government leaders to decide the matter.

Mesa County residents in November voted to oust the shops in unincorporated areas of Mesa County, leaving an estimated 12 medical marijuana centers remaining in the city.

Grand Junction City Council members first voted to shutter the shops, but medical marijuana advocates protested, and the council decided to let city residents decide, which they will in an election in April 2011.

Fruita City Council allowed the shops to operate with added conditions: increased sales taxes and centers allowed only in reserved sections of the city.

Palisade leaders placed a moratorium on any new medical marijuana centers but allowed an existing center to operate an adjoining grow center.

Voters opted to ban medical marijuana shops and their growing centers from Olathe, Paonia, De Beque and Montrose County.

While voters in Garfield County did not want to see medical marijuana retail storefronts in their towns, they gave the OK for medical marijuana grow centers to continue operating or set up shop there.

In 2010 in Mesa County, 2,583 people carried a registered medical marijuana card, according to the state’s Department of Health.

As of November, 105,000 people statewide possessed a card, though the state estimated a backlog of 73,000 applications. State sales-tax revenue from medical marijuana centers as of November was $2.2 million, money that was used to help balance the state’s 2011 budget shortfall.


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