City OKs moratorium on medical pot shops



There doesn’t appear to be a definitive answer to those questions, which is part of the reason why local governments are rushing to adopt moratoriums and regulations and why state legislators are contemplating new laws.

The business aspects of medical marijuana are muddy. Amendment 20, which authorized the medical use of marijuana when voters approved it in 2000, doesn’t address dispensaries.

In general, a dispensary acts as a primary caregiver in assisting patients with the medical use of marijuana.

The Colorado Board of Health earlier this month temporarily accepted requirements established by the Colorado Court of Appeals that primary caregivers must do more than supply marijuana to patients. A Denver District Court judge, however, last week struck down the state Board of Health’s adoption of the stricter regulations, alleging that state health officials ignored the needs of patients.

That has left the role of caregivers – dispensaries – temporarily in flux.

The city of Grand Junction will take a one-year timeout on licensing medical marijuana dispensaries to give city staff and state legislators time to craft regulations for the blooming industry.

The City Council unanimously agreed Monday night to impose a moratorium on the filing of development applications and issuance of sales-tax licenses for businesses that sell the drug to medical marijuana cardholders. The moratorium, which will take effect in mid-December, will not affect existing dispensaries.

Council members suggested they would like to work with dispensary owners and patients to develop rules to ensure shops are operating legally and in appropriate locations.

“One of my concerns is that we do treat this drug as a medicine and we put the appropriate infrastructure around the sale of the drug so that it is seen as a medicine and that the people who use it and can benefit from it have a safe place to obtain it,” Councilwoman Teresa Coons said.

The number of shops in Grand Junction that sell small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes has soared in recent weeks. The city has issued 32 sales-tax licenses to dispensaries, half of which opened this month or will open next month. Two more sales-tax license applications are pending, according to city Financial Operations Manager Jodi Romero.

Several medical marijuana dispensary owners testified in support of the moratorium and agreed their businesses should be regulated. They also invited the council to visit their shops and learn how they operate.

“Before you start making rules and regulations on how you’re going to give out your licenses, check out dispensaries, talk to patients, find out what helps them,” said Dusty Higgins, owner of Natures Medicine, 1001 Patterson Road. “None of you are patients. None of you know what (medical marijuana) is.”

Dispensary owners said some entrepreneurs are simply in the business to make money, but most are there to help patients find pain relief they haven’t discovered through prescriptions.

“We’re not here to make money off the medical marijuana. We’re here to take care of the people,” said Travis Chambers, owner of God’s Gift in Clifton. Chambers said he uses marijuana to help him cope with severe arthritis and hepatitis C. “… If it were left to make money off the marijuana, I’d be broke.”

Clifton resident Virginia Johnson said she battles depression and has spent the past six months in and out of the hospital. She said she might not be alive if not for medical marijuana dispensaries.

“They are out there to help us. They are out there so we can sleep and live longer and eat,” she said.


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