John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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October 11, 2012
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Carbondale trustees deny medical marijuana business permit

CARBONDALE - Following a heated debate, Carbondale trustees on Tuesday voted 4-3 to deny an application by CMED owner Michael Weisser to operate his medical marijuana center here.

CMED has been in operation for more than two years at 615 Buggy Circle, but the business is caught in a complex regulatory timeline.

Weisser, clearly upset by the board's action, asked whether the town was shutting his operation down and was told that town officials would let him know.

"You'd better do it quick, because I'm going to move immediately for an injunction against the board," Weisser replied.

Mayor Stacey Bernot and Trustees Elizabeth Murphy, Pam Zentmyer and John Foulkrod voted to deny the application, while Trustees Allyn Harvey, John Hoffmann and Frosty Merriott voted to approve it.

The vote came after a lengthy debate about whether Weisser had filed a completed application to operate a medical marijuana center, whether the application was eligible to be grandfathered under town codes, and other issues.

At an earlier hearing on Sept. 11, the trustees directed Weisser to file a revised application to operate the center, obtain a certificate of occupancy concerning remodeling he carried out at the town's direction, and other tasks.

Town Clerk Cathy Derby and town attorney Matt Hamilton, according to a memo to the trustees, concluded that Weisser had done as he was asked and that the application, as submitted for the Oct. 10 trustee meeting, was complete.

At issue are the date of the center's original sales tax license, the town's ensuing moratorium on medical marijuana centers, Weisser's various business and home addresses, and need for the CMED center in the community.

According to town staff, the original owner of the dispensary at 615 Buggy Circle applied for a sales tax license on June 29, 2010, two days before a trustee-approved moratorium on medical marijuana applications went into effect. At that time, the town's sole requirement for such businesses was a sales tax license.

Weisser purchased the business last year, and the sales tax license stayed in effect, according to Derby.

The importance of the date is that the town has been "grandfathering," or allowing as a non-conforming use, any medical marijuana center that was legally in business prior to the July 1, 2010, enactment of the moratorium.

That is because the town's medical marijuana regulations, including a 1,000-foot setback from schools, were not adopted until March 2011, Derby explained.

"Two days before the deadline, and that constitutes grandfathering?" asked Foulkrod.

Other trustees peppered Weisser with questions about other issues, including Zentmyer, who repeatedly asked about the presence of at least three addresses on Weisser's application - in Edwards, where Weisser has a home; in Denver, where CMED has its business office; and in Florida, where Weisser has another home.

"I'm thinking, if we're trying to collect some unpaid fee, are we at a disadvantage if we have a slew of addresses," Zentmyer asked the town attorney.

Hamilton indicated that Weisser owns a valid Colorado corporation, with a Colorado address, and that Weisser's limited liability company (LLC) is listed at the Edwards address.

The trustees who voted against the CMED application brought up a number of other issues.

These included questions about the products being sold, concerns about keeping track of employees after the initial permitting process, and whether the needs of the community are already being met by existing medical marijuana centers.

Restrictions on products and tracking employees are not part of the town's current regulations, the trustees were told.

And Trustee Merriott noted, "It's pretty evident to me that there's a need, if he has 86 patients." Weisser had told the trustees that he serves 86 patients.

Merriott at that point called the objections and challenges being put up by the other trustees "disingenuous."

"I also think it's dishonest to make this gentleman jump through all these hoops, and make him come back, if you never had any intention of voting for it," Merriott said.

Mayor Bernot replied forcefully that that she wonders if Carbondale needs more than the two existing medical marijuana centers, and indicated that Merriott's comments were out of line.

"Don't lecture me," Merriott shot back, prompting Bernot to ask, "Do we need to take a break to have a discussion in the hall about proper etiquette?"

The motion by Harvey to approve the application failed by a vote of 4-3, and Bernot called for a 10-minute break.

Weisser later told a reporter for the KDNK radio station, "This was a setup," and called the denial "selective" and "vindictive."

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Oct 11, 2012 07:09AM Published Oct 11, 2012 07:07AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.