Vote ‘For the Ordinance’’ on Referred Measure A

By now, most citizens of Grand Junction have received their mail-in ballots for the April 5 municipal election. Many of those voters may be puzzling over which of the five candidates to select for the open, at-large seat on the City Council.

We’ll weigh in with our endorsement for that contest Sunday. Today, we want to urge voters to mark their ballots “For the Ordinance” on Referred Measure A, which would prohibit medical marijuana businesses from operating inside the city limits.

The arguments for the ballot measure are essentially the same as they were for Mesa County’s Referred Measure 1A last November.

First, prohibiting the marijuana businesses, or dispensaries, doesn’t mean medical marijuana will be unavailble to those in the city who have obtained the state certificate for medical pot.

Under the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2000 and state laws passed last year to regulate dispensaeries, even if a ban on the businesses is enacted by a muncipality, individuals may still obtain medical marijuana from a caregiver serving up to five patients.

And that fact leads to the second argument for banning the dispensaries. Few, if any, Colorado voters expected the system that developed in the past couple years and has made Colorado the medical marijuana wonder of the United States (see column below).

The dispensary boom was an accident created by several events.

A state court ruling in 2009 challenged the definition of a caregiver that the state was using at the time. The same year, the Obama administration announced that it wouldn’t use federal law to prosecute medical marijuana users and caregivers who were legally allowed to have or distribute marijuana under state law.

Then there is the ambiguity of the 2000 ballot measure. The text of the amendmendment talks of patients and primary caregivers, but it doesn’t mention medical marijuana dispensaries, centers or any form of retail outlets for medical pot.

But it doesn’t expressly prohibit them, either.

The City Council voted last year to prohibit medical marijuana businesses within the city, as they were legally authorized to do under the new state laws. But, after receiving complaints and a petition from dispensary advocates, they agreed to put the ordinance to the voters.

We believe that was a sensible decision. Voters approved the original constitutional amendment. They ought to have the chance to say how it should be implemented now.

We believe the overwhelming majority of people who voted to legalize medical marijuana 11 years ago envisioned something much closer to the system that existed until 2009 — caregivers unobtrusively providing medical marijuana to a few patients, not retail stores on public streets or in strip malls, loudly advertising their many products.

The first system is fair and ought to be the standard for Grand Junction, as it is in unincorporated Mesa County. Vote “For the Ordinance” on Referred Measure A.


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