City won’t put pot to vote
Those who lasted through three hours of public testimony about their thoughts on medical marijuana dispensaries in Grand Junction got at least a partial answer to their questions.
City Council members on Wednesday night unanimously decided that they — and not the voters — will decide the fate of local cannabis shops. The decision earned a round of applause from some members of the audience who remained, a small crowd compared to a packed council chamber of folks who showed to speak at the second of two hearings dedicated solely to gathering input on medical marijuana dispensaries.
Council members have yet to decide whether those shops will be subjected to more regulation, allowed to operate as is, or be banned outright.
“We were elected not to vote our personal beliefs or feelings but for the good of the community as a whole,” Mayor Teresa Coons said. “This is not the last stop if we don’t put this issue on the ballot.”
Prior to the first of this month, 28 dispensaries had initially submitted applications to operate in Mesa County. After new state regulations went into effect, half of those dispensaries did not submit a license to the state, and are not operating legally, if they are still in business, according to a city report. Thirteen of the legally operating dispensaries are located inside city limits, the report said.
Council members heard mostly firsthand stories of the benefits of cannabis during the first Aug. 4 meeting, But comments ranged widely Wednesday night as a large swath of the community gave its two cents — people such as a retired school teacher, Vietnam veterans, a dentist and a doctor, cancer patients (some who use medical marijuana and another opposed to it), parents of children who use marijuana and medical marijuana caregivers.
“I do not believe that (voters) voted to have pot shops on every corner,” Barbara Mardock said of the statewide vote to allow medical marijuana. “You have to take responsibility for yourself. You have to take responsibility for your pain. Talk about proliferation of dispensaries. They’re all over this city. That’s ridiculous.”
Natasha Simmons, a caregiver and a person who grows cannabis for others, said she grows the plants to help out sick family members. She does the work because she’s assured the medication helps. She’s never smoked marijuana and doesn’t earn money off the endeavor.
“Maybe they should have regulated (dispensaries) before they put it on the ballot,” she said, also referring to Colorado’s Amendment 20, which allows state-licensed patients to obtain and use medical marijuana. “The issue is whether people with a serious medical condition is allowed to receive something that will make them a better person, that will give them a better life. You gave them a gift, don’t take it away.”
Council member Gregg Palmer said he was against putting the issue on the ballot partly because it could cost more than $100,000 to do so.
Council member Bruce Hill said he disagreed with that logic.
“If it was the right thing to do, put it on ballot,” he said. “For me, it boils down to this is not an easy decision. It has several issues to it.”
Council members haven’t yet set a date on when they will further discuss the future of medical marijuana dispensaries.
They were up against a Sept. 3 deadline to determine whether the issue would go to voters on the November ballot. That deadline is now moot.
Council members meet again early next month, but several members are expected to be absent, so it’s unclear when the topic will be placed on the upcoming agenda. Agenda items are finalized to the public late in the week before the next week of meetings.