GJ Council cautious on medical marijuana

Medical marijuana supporters demonstrate Monday in front of City Hall while the Grand Junction City Council conducted a workshop session about how to regulate the substance within the city.



Grand Junction City Council members will speak with representatives from other local governments and other stakeholders in the medical marijuana debate before deciding how to regulate the substance in the city.

Council members also have requested information from city staff about Amendment 20 and federal legislation on marijuana before possibly presenting an ordinance at a public hearing at a future council meeting. Colorado voters in 2000 passed Amendment 20, which outlines how much medical marijuana patients can possess and how many plants a person can cultivate.

Council members discussed next steps in regulating medical marijuana during a council workshop attended by more than 70 people Monday afternoon. No public testimony was taken, which is standard protocol at workshop meetings.

Outside City Hall during the meeting, about 20 people carried signs in support of medical marijuana.

Councilman Tom Kenyon said medical marijuana business owners and customers’ input would be “very important” as an ordinance took shape. Other stakeholders invited to speak with the city may include law enforcement, county officials and municipal leaders in nearby towns, Mayor Teresa Coons said.

“The more input we get, the better decision we’ll make,” Kenyon said.

Councilwoman Bonnie Beckstein said she’d prefer the city compile ordinance language before seeking public input. Beckstein said she wanted to make sure the ordinance followed the state constitution before taking in a variety of local views.

“It’s great to hear from the community,” she said. “But it’s important to make sure what we put forth is according to the law.”

Beckstein also said if the council adopts an ordinance, it should jibe with what nearby communities are doing. However, the city should not wait for Fruita, Palisade and Mesa County to approve medical marijuana guidelines before making a move if those areas took a long time to act, Councilman Sam Susuras said.

“We need to keep that on a short time frame,” he said.

City Attorney John Shaver told council members at the workshop that the city did not have a time line to follow and could present an ordinance at a public hearing at any time. However, state medical marijuana legislation will take full effect for medical marijuana businesses July 1, 2011, and some rules for these establishments will take effect July 1, 2010.

Shaver said Monday he had written an ordinance the council could use, but council members decided to have meetings with multiple stakeholders before settling on language. Shaver said he wrote the draft ordinance based on what he saw as shortfalls in new state legislation. For example, the new legislation does not address municipal zoning for medical marijuana operations, he said.

Dusty Higgins, owner of Nature’s Medicine, said after Monday’s workshop that he hopes to see cooperation as the city formulates an ordinance. He said it sounds like the council wants to learn instead of outright banning medical marijuana in the city.

Higgins said he’s offered tours of his facilities at 2755 North Ave. and 1001 Patterson Road, but so far no city council members have taken him up on the offer. During a pre-council workshop later in the day Monday, Kenyon said he and Susuras would like to visit some medical marijuana shops and asked for Shaver for a list of addresses.


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