Pot providers say grow ban a ‘disservice’

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A common desire to comply with a new Colorado law is putting Garfield County and local medical marijuana providers at odds.

County commissioners last week voted 2-1 to adopt a six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana establishments to give the county time to figure out how to deal with zoning and licensing issues as required by the law. But their action eliminates the hopes of some providers of opening grow operations in rural areas within the county in time to help meet a requirement of the law that they begin growing at least 70 percent of the product they sell.

The moratorium applies to unincorporated parts of the county. Some dispensary owners had been eyeing such rural, agricultural areas as potential places to operate related growing facilities. However, Garfield planning staff members say the county’s current zoning rules are silent on medical marijuana, and they don’t consider growing operations permissible under existing agricultural zoning.

Quinn Whitten, who owns dispensaries in Garfield and Pitkin counties, questioned that interpretation.

“They’re going to have a hard time saying a plant growing in the ground is not agricultural,” Whitten said.

Some in the medical marijuana field worry that actions such as Garfield County’s moratorium are affecting the ability of patients to get marijuana.

“I think what they did is a disservice to the community, especially its most debilitated members,” said Jami Hill-Miller, who said she works as a caregiver for home-bound patients.

Garfield County Commissioner Tresi Houpt voted against the moratorium. She said more thought needs to be given to possible unintended consequences.

But commissioner John Martin said, “I think we need to take that timeout, a moratorium, make sure we’re focused on the positives and negatives and make a decision that’s fair to both sides.”

Glenwood Springs resident Shannon Winkler said she is happy to see the moratorium passed. She also wants the county to consider asking voters whether the county should ban medical marijuana facilities altogether in unincorporated areas, as is allowed under the new law.

County voters approved the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment 10 years ago by a 9,131-7,572 vote. But Winkler said she has talked to people who supported that measure who “didn’t think it would look like this.”


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