No easy call on medical marijuana

For a number of reasons discussed below, we disagree with the apparent majority of Grand Junction City Council members who appear poised to ban medical marijuana dispensaries and growing operations within the city limits.

But we recognize it is no slam-dunk decision. There are sound arguments to be made on both sides of the issue.

For instance, when a group of local mothers is willing to put themselves on the front line of such a contentious issue as this, and present their arguments in a public City Council meeting about the potential dangers to youngsters of having medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the city, council members should take notice. Ditto when red flags are raised by medical professionals.

And it’s true, as several people noted at the City Council meeting this week, that when they approved the medical marijuana constitutional amendment a decade ago, Colorado voters didn’t anticipate the creation and proliferation of marijuana dispensaries that has occurred over the past year.

But that brings up one of our objections to the decision toward which the City Council is apparently leaning. In most cases, we believe elected representatives such as council members should make difficult policy decisions and not defer issues to voters just because they are contentious.

But in this instance, where medical marijuana was originally approved by voters, but the situation has changed dramatically from 10 years ago, it seems sensible to let the voters weigh in on how to handle medical marijuana in the city.

That’s what the Mesa County commissioners decided to do. And, despite the concerns of some council members about the cost of putting the issue to voters,  we don’t believe election issues should be decided primarily based on expense. The fundamental right and responsibility of a democracy is voting. Cut costs elsewhere.

In addition, the question of whether local governments can legally ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their boundaries under a law adopted by the state Legislature this spring is already headed to court. It will almost certainly make it to the Colorado Supreme Court at some point.

Is there a constitutional right in Colorado to have medical marijuana dispensaries in any community in the state? It seems unlikely, but the state’s high court will ultimately decide. It seems prudent to await that decision, perhaps with a moratorium on any new dispensaries until the ruling is handed down.

In any event, it should be noted that even if the City Council decides to ban the dispensaries within Grand Junction city limits, it won’t be condemning people in pain or with other needs to a life without medical marijuana. They will still have access to caregivers who can provide medical marijuana to up to five patients each, just as they did for the first nine years after Colorado’s medical marijuana amendment was approved.

The council members are dealing with a difficult issue, which provokes emotional responses from both sides. While we may disagree with the decision they ultimately reach, we respect their willingness to tackle this.


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