After hearing from two dozen speakers at its Monday work session, the Grand Junction City Council directed staff to form a working group to further study the issues and impacts of allowing medical and recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
Council work sessions do not normally include a public comment portion, but the council members said they wanted to get public input before moving forward.
Many of the speakers highlighted negative impacts of marijuana that they have experienced in their personal lives, while others shared information they had researched that claimed negative health effects from the drug. The dangers of people “high” on marijuana driving were also brought up by several speakers.
Kathleen Wilson, who holds a doctorate in nursing practice, said in her work she had seen the negative effects on mostly young men who she said were often receiving public assistance or relying on family members for housing.
“It’s really hard to move forward with these patients, with our citizens because they are addicted to this substance,” Wilson said. “They have easy access to it. It’s not particularly expensive, so I hear.”
Several speakers related positive medical experiences they had using cannabis. They recounted stories of it helping with cancer treatments and as a substitute to opioid treatment. Owner of Natural Order Supply, a local hydroponic equipment store, Dan Ramsay said he had seen both medical and economic benefits from the cannabis industry.
“If we don’t find a way to start regulating it, it will continue to have a black market,” Ramsay said. “I think Grand Junction could use an economic stimulus. I think there are a lot of senior citizens here who can use access to medicine that in Colorado legally you should have access to.”
Many of the speakers raised concerns over youth usage of marijuana. Local resident Robbie Koos said keeping youth off of the drug was her primary concern.
However, she said she had at one time used cannabis to treat tennis elbow and that it had worked for her. She said that there could be a compromise between keeping youth off marijuana while allowing adults to access it.
“We need some more revenue sources for programs for our youth,” Koos said. “It’s a known fact that kids that are in extracurricular activities — sports, scouting, music, whatever it is — are less likely to get involved with drugs. So I think it could really help if we did have dispensaries here available in Grand Junction to use some of the money that’s earmarked for programs for our youth.”
Grand Junction Chief of Police Doug Shoemaker gave the initial staff presentation on the question.
He said the council would need to look at the regulatory framework around the different types of businesses from retail stores to potentially allowing cultivation and manufacturing.
“Many communities do have regulations that cover a diverse group of community interests,” Shoemaker said. “So if Council wishes to proceed with an ordinance, staff certainly recommends the formation of a working group to provide input on those types of things.”
Council Member Rick Taggart said he favored a working group that included a diverse set of voices moving forward. The rest of the council agreed.
“We’re going to move along,” Mayor Duke Wortmann said. “I think that’s the logical thing to do at this point. I appreciate all the information that we’ve been given and the time it took to produce that information.”