GJ council to discuss marijuana regulation


Local regulation

House Bill 1284 allows cities and counties to:

• Refuse a license if good cause is found.

• Provide the state with a list of medical marijuana operations, if asked.

• Adopt standards for issuing licenses to medical-marijuana businesses or consider the minimum requirements outlined in the bill.

• Change the 1,000-foot limit the state says a medical marijuana business has to be from a school, college, seminary, residential child care facility or drug or alcohol treatment facility.

• Schedule an optional public hearing no less than 30 days after receiving an application for a license for a medical-marijuana business.

• Schedule an optional public hearing on a license renewal only if a complaint has been filed against the operation, it has a history of violations, or there are allegations against the business.

• Provide notice of a license’s suspension or revocation.

• Judge whether to allow an operation to pay a fine instead of remaining closed for a set period during a license suspension.

The Grand Junction City Council will air out its options for handling statewide medical marijuana legislation during a workshop meeting Monday at City Hall.

Under the provisions of recently signed medical marijuana legislation, city and county boards in Colorado can vote to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, operations that grow medical marijuana and product makers. They can ask local voters to decide whether they want a ban or prefer to follow the rules outlined in House Bill 1284.

Through a board decision or public vote, cities and counties can make more stringent rules in addition to those in the bill.

One-size-fits-all legislation may not work for Colorado’s diverse roster of municipalities, Councilman Tom Kenyon said. The key is to find what works for Grand Junction, he said.

“Personally, I think it’s always a good decision to ask voters what they want,” Kenyon said.

But given the cost of elections, Kenyon said he wants to discuss with the community first whether that’s a worthwhile option. He said he would like to have a discussion with Mesa County, Palisade and Fruita leaders to see what they will be doing and how their decisions could affect the city’s plans.

Council member Gregg Palmer said he wants input from the community, but he’s not sure about a ballot option.

“Instead of spending money on an election, council is the appropriate place to have the decision made,” Palmer said. “I don’t see value in putting the issue off for months and months until we can have an election.”

Palmer said he’s not in favor of banning all sources of medical marijuana within city limits, but he would like to see local guidelines regulating supply, sanitation standards and qualifications for people to receive medical marijuana cards. The city’s process for liquor licensing could serve as a model for licensing medical-marijuana-related businesses, Palmer said.

“If we use that template, I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Whatever is decided, council member Sam Susuras said the council needs to move quickly. Cities and counties have until July 1, 2011, to decide what to do before medical-marijuana-related operations are subject to all rules in House Bill 1284. Some provisions, such as dispensaries paying fees and filling out Department of Revenue forms, will go into effect as early as July 1 this year.

Susuras said he is confident the city will have some regulation in addition to what the state outlined.

“I think we definitely need our own,” he said.

Which direction Grand Junction will take is up for debate, Mayor Teresa Coons said.

“I’m trying not to form an opinion before the (Monday workshop) meeting. I’m hoping no one goes into the meeting saying ‘Here’s what we’re going to do,’ ” she said.

Grand Junction is joining a growing number of municipalities considering their options after the June 7 signing of House Bill 1284. The City Council in Vail has adopted a ban, Sterling’s council is considering a ban, and the Aurora City Council is weighing a public vote on a ban.


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