Kids Voting: County voters to decide fate of medical pot shops

By Zac Barger, GJHS

Medical cannabis — more commonly known as marijuana — has been an evolving issue since Colorado passed Amendment 20 in November of 2000, making it one of 14 states to legalize the drug’s medical use.

Now, after two additional state amendments, House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109, went into effect in June, medical marijuana dispensaries have been called into question in Mesa County.

Voters are being asked in the Nov. 2 election to decide whether or not dispensaries should be allowed in unincorporated areas, outside city limits. There are no medical marijuana shops in Fruita, while Palisade has one.

There are 14 in Grand Junction, but those could be put out of business because the Grand Junction City Council is expected to approve an ordinance later this month — without a public vote — that would ban the shops inside city boundaries.

The Mesa County Commission decided by a 2–1 vote to put the issue on the ballot. Steve Acquafresca and Craig Meis voted for the ballot, while Janet Rowland voted against it.

“The practicality of it is in Mesa County and the rest of the state we have legalized marijuana,” Acquafresca said. “This is a result of the authority granted to local governments. We should have a debate about legalizing the product, and that’s not what’s occurred.”

Meis said his decision was the toughest he has faced in his five years on the commission, and that he thought it was appropriate for voters to decide the issue since the electorate brought Amendment 20 to the ballot and approved it.

Rowland thought the voters statewide should decide the issue since they passed the original amendment.

Amendment 20 legalized the use of marijuana by people who suffer from a small number of illnesses if prescribed by a licensed physician. House Bill 1284 and Senate Bill 109 provide more regulation of dispensaries.

Gov. Bill Ritter said: “House Bill 1284 provides a regulatory framework for dispensaries, including giving local communities the ability to ban or place sensible and much-needed controls on the operation, location and ownership of these establishments. Senate Bill 109 will help prevent fraud and abuse.”

To purchase medical marijuana, patients must have cards that designate them as legal buyers. But these cards may be easier to get than some people think. The average age of a card holder is 25.

“I’d like to see the state step forward and put in place a regulatory system that treats it as any other prescription drug. The way it’s ended up is very different,” Acquafresca said.

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Zac Barger is a sophomore at Grand Junction High School. He is reporting on election issues for The Daily Sentinel in conjunction with Kids Voting of Mesa County.


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