County voters should act to ban medical marijuana dispensaries

By Cathie Jorgenson

Until I started hearing from friends and business owners about three months ago, I didn’t know what was happening in the world of marijuana dispensaries and the possible ramifications.

What did I hear? Business people complained about the smell coming from dispensaries located next door to them. Friends said they were accosted on their streets by people who wanted to sell them pot. Minors were reportedly seen going into a marijuana shop to pick up products, then driving down the street to share the stash with their friends.

I started paying attention.

The city of Grand Junction held two public hearings in August. At the first meeting, my friend and I were outnumbered by the youngsters and purported caregivers who were attending to urge the legalization of dispensaries in the city. Only two people spoke against this.

By the second meeting, we were ready and had many like-minded people attend. Many of us had the opportunity to speak. Finally, the opposing view was told.

My research on marijuana led me to know that marijuana is extremely dangerous for us, for our kids and for our society. I presented a copy of some of this research to City Council members and urged them to think this problem over very carefully before making their final decision. I would be happy to provide this information to anyone.

However dangerous this substance is to us, it’s not the issue facing us in this election.

Mesa County decided to place the question on the November ballot to determine what we, the voters, want to do about allowing marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county.

In a recent column in The Daily Sentinel, County Commissioner Janet Rowland said that, even though she voted against Amendment 20, which made medical marijuana legal, she feels that dispensary owners have a constitutional right to operate their businesses in Colorado.

Let’s examine the issue as to its intent and to its constitutionality.

Amendment 20 was passed by Colorado voters in 2000. We all have a great deal of sympathy for people suffering from chronic pain and other ailments, which they claim can only be alleviated by the use of marijuana. Let me emphasize: Amendment 20 was passed for these sufferers, not for recreational users.

My first shock came when I learned that medical marijuana is not being prescribed by physicians. They simply advise whether a patient might benefit from medical marijuana. Since federal law still forbids marijuana under the “controlled substance” ban, it would be dangerous for physicians to prescribe it.

Amendment 20 states that criminal laws would not affect those who received a registry identification card from “physicians who advise patients or provide them with written documentation as to such medical marijuana use.” This information must be presented to the state health agency on demand.

For patients under 18, two physicians must attest to the debilitating medical condition.

Unfortunately, the voters of our great state did vote to ratify Amendment 20. It is interesting to note that, among voters in Mesa County however, the vote was 41.5 percent “Yes” to 53.6 percent “No.” In the Kids Voting drive, kids showed their preference by casting unofficial ballots in favor of the amendment by a margin of 61.9 percent “Yes” to 33.5 percent “No.”

Two bills signed by Gov. Bill Ritter this June were attempts to clarify Amendment 20.

House Bill 1284 clearly states that the law authorizes “local jurisdictions to prohibit medical marijuana businesses.” It also states that it is a criminal act for a physician “who makes referrals ... to a center to receive anything in value in return.” This sounds like an awful lot of work for physicians, for little or no monetary benefit. And this does not mention possible liabilities under federal law.

Senate Bill 109 takes the clarifications even further. It says treatment must include, “a personal physical examination.”

Gov. Ritter commented as he signed HB 1284 and SB 109 that they do give communities the right to ban dispensaries.

These two bills now leave us with a clear understanding that it is, in fact, totally the right of cities and counties in Colorado to make their own decision as to whether to allow dispensaries in their jurisdictions.

The issue of dispensaries opened a whole can of worms that voters never anticipated in 2000. We need to step back and re-evaluate before making any serious decisions.

In order to keep dispensaries from operating in unincorporated areas of Mesa County, people must vote “Yes” on Referred Measure 1A.

Mesa County resident Cathie Jorgenson works as a tax preparer for H&R Block in Fruita. She became politically active due to her concerns about the state of our nation.


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