Mesa County considers pot dispensary controls

State and local governments are beginning to crack down on the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries.

The state is considering bills to better manage the operations of these dispensaries. The city of Grand Junction is proposing a 12-month moratorium on issuing business licenses for them.  Palisade is looking at a 90-day moratorium and Fruita a 60-day moratorium.

There are no marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. The county might use zoning ordinances to keep it that way,  Commissioner Janet Rowland said.

“That would be my preference,” she said.

As it is, county officials are considering using the land- development code to keep marijuana dispensaries at a distance from schools, parks and other public places.

Commissioners Steve Acquafresca and Craig Meis said controlling the locations of marijuana dispensaries through zoning is an appropriate use of the code.

“We have got to put them in the right place,” Meis said.

Voters approved medical-marijuana dispensaries in 2000. The state has put the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in charge of a registry of residents who apply for and receive a state-issued card. The card allows holders to have 2 ounces of marijuana and grow six plants for their own use.

Some local pot shop owners say the law allows them to sell a person up to 2 ounces of pot a day. Chad Geery, owner of High Desert Dispensary, 1490 North Ave., said selling that much marijuana to one customer is irresponsible and is an example of why there should be additional controls on the business.

“There is absolutely no way someone could go through that amount in one day,” Geery said. “We have changed our policy (from) 2 ounces a day to 2 ounces a week.”

Geery said he is also in favor of a city moratorium on dispensaries and the use of zoning ordinances to control location.

“The moratoriums around the state have been popping up left and right. For the most part, I think it is a good thing,” he said.

The city’s proposed moratorium is expected to be voted on by the City Council on Nov. 16. The time is intended to give the city time to consider zoning, regulations and/or licensing for primary care-givers operating through the dispensaries, and site-specific regulations, according to the draft ordinance.

Grand Junction City Attorney John Shaver said the city also is awaiting possible action by the state Legislature before it crafts any rules and regulations of its own regarding the dispensaries.

Jon Peacock, Mesa County administrator, said municipalities use zoning laws to restrict the locations of various businesses, such as liquor stores. He said he saw no reason why marijuana dispensaries could not be governed similarly.

Within the various municipalities of Mesa County were 393 people with medical marijuana cards as of July 31, according to the latest numbers available from the state health department. The department has no authority over the licensing or daily operations of the dispensaries.

Mark Salley, a health department spokesman, said the state continues to receive “thousands more” applications from individuals who want a card.

“We have been receiving perhaps about 500 applications a week,” he said.


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