3,200 have signed petition for vote on city dispensaries

Cat Coughran of Fruita explains a petition to repeal a city ordinance banning medical pot shops or to send the issue to voters.

Volunteers, patients and owners of medical-marijuana dispensaries have fanned out in Grand Junction in recent weeks, pressing forward with a petition drive.

The Grand Junction City Council on Oct. 4 voted to ban the shops in city limits, which would prohibit the stores after Jan. 1.

Medical-marijuana proponents are hoping a petition drive and subsequent election by the city’s voters will reverse that decision. Proponents already have secured about 3,200 signatures and are hoping to get 5,000 to improve their odds of netting the 1,860 valid signatures they need to take the issue to voters, said Cat Coughran, head of Mesa County Constitution Advocates, the group organizing the drive.

“It’s very interesting,” she said. “There’s people who are for it or are completely against it. There’s a large middle portion, and they don’t have an opinion. They’re kind of upset that City Council decided to ban these businesses on their own. We’re seeing a lot of pro-business response.”

Petitions are due to the city by Thursday. If enough signatures are considered valid, City Council members must decide whether to hold a special election or place the issue on the April ballot. Dispensaries would be able to continue operating as usual until an election occurs.

A booth to collect petitions at Mesa Mall on Saturday garnered a varied response from shoppers.

“I have friends that need it,” said one woman, who signed it.

“Is this the one that keeps the dispensaries in the city? Sign that,” another woman instructed a man she was with. Some others walked briskly past the table, curtly refusing to sign.

Dispensary owners in the city limits said they cannot relocate their stores elsewhere in the county because state regulations prohibit such movement until permanent rules are put in place. That is expected to happen July 1.

Meanwhile, Mesa County voters will go to the polls Tuesday on Referendum 1A to decide whether medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed in unincorporated Mesa County.

“Business owners invested in the community, and now they’re kind of stuck in this catch-22,” Coughran said.

Seventeen of Grand Junction’s 23 dispensaries have joined Mesa County Constitutional Advocates. The group opposes a countywide ban on cannabis dispensaries and has funded advertising campaigns to defeat Referendum 1A.

Robert Ingalsbe, co-owner of medical marijuana dispensary Greenlight Care, 216 North Ave. No. 11, spent a couple hours Saturday asking shoppers to sign the petition.

He said the city should be thankful “we’re not trying to get it legalized. We’re trying to operate our businesses as we have,” he told one person.

He said the city should not try to limit sales tax collections as other revenues are declining.

“We’ve just been bullied and pushed around,” he said. “I guarantee the city is still going to accept my tax check this month, although they banned (dispensaries) last month.”


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