City sets pot dispensaries vote for April

Medical marijuana dispensaries, which are banned in unincorporated areas of Mesa County, will be allowed inside Grand Junction city limits if voters give their approval in April.

Grand Junction City Council members Wednesday night unanimously voted to put the issue on the ballot, reversing their earlier course on the matter.

Previously, the council chose not to put the issue to voters, instead exercising its authority to decide the issue. The board voted Oct. 4 to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, and the ordinance was to take effect Jan. 1.

Spurring the change were medical marijuana supporters, who completed a petition drive protesting the ban.

Council members could have decided Wednesday to repeal the ban altogether, but decided instead for the election. Medical marijuana proponents said they were disappointed the council did not repeal the ordinance, but the decision did not come as a surprise.

“We’ll be working a grass-roots and tactical campaign going forward,” said Cat Coughran, spokeswoman of Mesa County Constitutional Advocates, a group that represents local medical marijuana dispensaries. “Now we need to let the people speak.”

Three medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated Mesa County have been shuttered since the voters last month approved a county ban. A dozen dispensaries remain in the city limits, Coughran said. Those centers can continue to operate at least until the April 5 election, when it will be up to local voters to decide whether they should shut down.

Mayor Teresa Coons previously was the sole dissenter on banning medical marijuana dispensaries by ordinance. She said Wednesday she favors letting them continue to operate with increased regulation. Regulations have been instated by the state, and further regulations are expected after next year’s legislative session.

In other matters:

City Council members unanimously approved the city’s 2011 budget of $147.2 million, which is up $14.5 million from 2010’s budget of $132.7 million. Next year’s increase comes with the infusion of funds acquired to pay for construction on a new public safety center.

“Revenues have stabilized this year, and I’m happy to report that they are doing what we said they would,” Grand Junction City Manager Laurie Kadrich said.


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