John Colson
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

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November 29, 2012
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No medical marijuana moratorium yet for Carbondale

CARBONDALE - Town trustees on Tuesday held off on a nine-month moratorium on reviewing new proposals for medical marijuana and retail marijuana shops in Carbondale.

The trustees directed town staffers to instead revise the proposed moratorium ordinance, which was prepared for this week's meeting, to prohibit strictly new businesses, involving either medical marijuana or retail outlets.

Staff members were instructed to bring the revised ordinance back for consideration at the next trustee meeting, on Dec. 11.

The trustees directed the staff to include language to prevent medical marijuana centers from trying to convert to "retail" marijuana outlets. Colorado voters on Nov. 6 approved a state constitutional amendment to legalize the recreational use of pot by anyone over 21.

Plus, the trustees asked the staff to explore including language that would prevent medical marijuana centers from growing to the point where they become regional distribution centers instead of serving strictly a Carbondale clientele.

At the same time as ordering that the moratorium undergoes a modification, the trustees agreed to permit two old applications for dispensaries to move forward, despite earlier denials of permit applications by the two businesses - CMED, at 615 Buggy Circle, and Green Miracle Medicinals, at 985 Highway 133.

The trustees also agreed to review an expansion plan by a third local dispensary, known as the Medical Marijuana Center of Colorado (MMCC), 60 N. Third St.

The owner of MMCC, local businessman Spence Schiffer, has told the town that his business is doing so well he needs more space.

In the end, at least as things now stand, Carbondale could well end up being home to four medical marijuana centers, rather than the two that currently are doing business in the town.

The moratorium was conceived in the wake of the Nov. 6 election, over concerns that the town should brace itself for a plethora of applications, for either medical marijuana dispensaries hoping for ultimate conversion to retail shops, or applications directly aimed at opening up retail stores with no medical restrictions attached.

At one point, Carbondale hosted a dozen or more medical marijuana dispensaries, which were legalized by a statewide constitutional amendment in 2000. That number has since dwindled to two, with two more in the pipeline.

Schiffer, arguing against the moratorium ordinance as it was presented on Tuesday, questioned the need for quick action by the town.

"I really don't see the emergency," he told the trustees.

In his own case, he said, "We simply want to expand. We find ourselves in the, I guess, enviable position where our business is growing."

He noted that the town has the option of rejecting his application if the expansion idea is unacceptable.

But he doubted that the town is in danger of "a flood of medical marijuana applications" by entrepreneurs interested only in converting to retail shops once they get a permit to run a dispensary.

Trustee Pam Zentmyer asked whether the staff had come up with a plan for determining at what point the "needs of the community" have been met by medical marijuana outlets, and was told that work on that question has been put on hold for now.

Town Manager Jay Harrington explained that the staff will take up the "needs of the community" question once the dust has settled regarding Amendment 64, including the creation of state regulatory laws to govern yet another marijuana related industry in Colorado.

Trustee John Foulkrod, eager to bring the discussion to a close so the trustees could deal with the rest of the meeting's agenda, moved to direct the staff to redraft an ordinance that will strictly prohibit new marijuana-related businesses.

As described in Foulkrod's motion, the ordinance would exempt existing dispensaries and those with pending applications now before the trustees.

The motion passed unanimously.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Nov 29, 2012 06:29AM Published Nov 29, 2012 06:27AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.