Medical marijuana discussion becomes heated

Local municipal leaders discussed the pros and cons Wednesday night of asking voters whether medical marijuana centers should be banned in parts or all of Mesa County.

A ballot question for this November would have to be approved by September, Mesa County Administrator Jon Peacock told officials from Mesa County, Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, De Beque and Collbran who gathered at the Old Mesa County Courthouse for a municipalities dinner, something the groups do about once every three or four months.

Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland said she favored a ballot question until she talked to a medical marijuana advocate who said his terminally ill mother, who could not keep down pills, may have gotten pain relief if she’d had access to medical marijuana before she died. Rowland said she now feels like she’d be “walking away from a tough decision” if the county entertained a ballot measure.

“People using it for the wrong reasons are still going to have it,” she said. “We should regulate it with zoning and keep it out of our children’s hands.”

Asking voters wouldn’t hurt as long as the rights of caregivers are protected and patients could access medical marijuana somehow, Fruita City Council member Bob Fuller said. Cities, counties and towns are allowed to ban medical marijuana centers but not caregiver grow operations under recently-passed state legislation.

“To me, that’s the key to the whole process. That’s why it makes sense to ask voters if they want to ban dispensaries,” Fuller said.

No decisions were made during Wednesday’s meeting. Officials spent most of the evening asking Peacock questions about House Bill 1284 medical marijuana legislation.

Peacock opened the meeting with a slide-show presentation explaining the bill’s tenets along with a clip from “The Daily Show” of a mock news reporter interviewing Denver medical-marijuana-center owners. The clip caused a few of the two dozen medical marijuana advocates who attended the meeting to question whether the clip was appropriate. One man muttered, “(Expletive) this,” and walked out of the meeting before the clip finished.

Later in the meeting, Nature’s Medicine Owner Dusty Higgins asked if a couple advocates could join the discussion table instead of sitting in the audience. Public comment is not taken at municipality dinners or other workshops.

Mesa County Commissioner Craig Meis responded there would be time for medical marijuana advocates to discuss their opinions in later meetings. When Higgins continued to talk, Meis replied, “If there’s an outburst, I will call the sheriff’s office and have you removed.”

Higgins and about half of the medical marijuana advocates at the meeting left soon after that. Before he left, Higgins said the clip “depicts us in the worst light” and called the meeting “a crock.”


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