Vote ‘Yes’ on county’s Referred Measure 1A

Dusty Higgins is the owner of Nature’s Medicine Wellness Center, a medical marijuana dispensary.

There will, we realize, be court challenges to any community effort to ban medical marijuana dispensaries under a state law adopted earlier this year. Ultimately, the question of whether such bans are constitutional will almost certainly be determined by the Colorado Supreme Court.

But there is another question people should consider as they are deciding whether to vote for Mesa County Referred Measure 1A: What did voters envision when they approved a medical marijuana constitutional amendment 10 years ago?

It’s hard to believe anyone who voted for Amendment 20 on the 2000 election ballot anticipated the current situation, with medical marijuana retail outlets seemingly in every neighborhood and shopping center.

Referred Measure 1A would prohibit the operation of medical marijuana centers, or dispensaries, in unincorporated parts of Mesa County.

The measure would also prohibit large marijuana cultivation operations in the county, along with the sale of “marijuana-infused products” such as marijuana candy.

Since the Grand Junction City Council has already voted to ban similar operations within the city limits, passage of Referred Measure 1A would mean a majority of Mesa County would be off-limits to medical marijuana centers.

But that doesn’t mean medical marijuana will be outlawed. Instead, the situation will revert to essentially what it was for the first nine years after Amendment 20 passed. Individual care-givers will be able to provide medical marijuana to up to five patients and grow limited amounts of marijuana to serve them.

That’s clearly the sort of system most Colorado voters had in mind when they marked their ballots in favor of Amendment 20 a decade ago. Read the text of the amendment and you’ll see lots of references to medical marijuana patients and their “primary care-givers.” There is no mention of medical marijuana centers or dispensaries.

Unfortunately, “primary care-giver” was defined ambiguously enough that it has allowed dispensaries to claim care-giver status for a multitude of customers.

No doubt questions about that definition will be part of any legal challenge to community bans on medical marijuana centers.

In the meantime, Mesa County residents who believed they voted 10 years ago only for limited amounts of medical marijuana for serious medical problems, provided by care-givers serving a handful of patients — not large marijuana retail outlets — have a chance to reiterate that view this year.

We urge a “Yes” vote on Referred Measure 1A.


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