Palisade voters reject ban on medical marijuana dispensary sales


Voters OK marijuana fee

Patients who will be able to continue to receive medical marijuana from Colorado Alternative Health Care in Palisade will have to dig deeper to pay for their medicine.

Town residents Tuesday night approved a $5 transaction fee that will be added to each sale made at a medical marijuana center in town. Referred Measure 2A passed 480 to 398, or 54 percent to 44 percent.

Town officials have estimated the fee will generate $80,000 a year in revenue, a significant amount of money considering Palisade pulls in roughly $225,000 in revenue from its 2 percent sales tax annually.

The lone medical marijuana center in Mesa County will keep its doors open after Palisade residents Tuesday night soundly rejected a measure that would have banned commercial medical marijuana sales within the town.

Final, unofficial results showed voters turning away Referred Measure 2B 61 percent to 39 percent, with 545 votes to allow Colorado Alternative Health Care to remain operational compared with 347 votes to shut it down.

The decision marks a rare victory in Colorado for backers of commercial dispensaries, which were outlawed in unincorporated areas of Mesa County a year ago, in Grand Junction in April and in more than 75 other communities across the state.

“Isn’t it amazing?” asked a happy Jesse Loughman, co-owner of Colorado Alternative Health Care, at about 8 p.m., as votes were still being tallied. Attempts to reach Loughman for comment later in the evening were unsuccessful.

Diane Cox, an East Orchard Mesa resident who led a petition drive earlier this summer to force town leaders to prohibit dispensaries outright or let voters decide the issue, said she was disappointed by the outcome but glad that citizens had the opportunity to voice their opinions.

“I think it was a really good thing there was an election, so people could decide this issue for themselves,” she said. “It’s important when there’s something that’s controversial that voters have a say.”

Supporters of dispensaries noted Colorado Alternative Health Care operates in a professional manner and brings in vital tax revenue to the town. They claimed banning the business would send marijuana back onto the street, where it can’t be regulated, and reduce access to it for patients who may not be able to grow the plants themselves.

Opponents argued medical marijuana centers have boosted the availability of the drug in the community and contributed to a rise in drug-related expulsions within School District 51. They also said they feared such a business would portray the town in a negative light.

Both sides spent weeks pounding the pavement in Palisade, mailing or passing out fliers, going door-to-door visiting with residents and waving signs on U.S. Highway 6. The Loughmans said they canvassed neighborhoods to make sure residents were registered to vote and help them register if they weren’t.

The campaigns were marred in the last few weeks with both sides filing police reports about stolen or damaged signs.

Safe and Healthy Mesa County, a citizens group formed by Cox to oppose medical marijuana shops across Mesa County, mustered enough signatures on a petition to create a ballot measure that sought to outlaw dispensaries, marijuana cultivation operations and the manufacturing of marijuana-infused products.

The group raised more $2,500 in contributions between April and October, according to campaign finance reports filed with the town. Cox was the top individual contributor, donating $900 in cash. Virtually all of the other contributions came from three other people who also live outside of town — Dorothy Hahn and Mary Praete, both of Grand Junction, and Zelda Popovich of Clifton, according to reports.

But unlike in Mesa County and Grand Junction, Colorado Alternative Health Care had the backing of a majority of town leaders. Many said it appeared to be a model business that was causing no problems for police.

The Loughmans also endeared themselves to many in the community by partnering with their patients to tackle a number of community-service projects and opening up their business to anyone who wanted to learn more about it.


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