The Basalt Town Council decided to chill out when it came to finalizing regulations on medical marijuana operations Tuesday night.
The council voted 6-0 to approve a second and final reading of an ordinance that establishes rules for medical marijuana dispensaries and ends a moratorium on them.
After a discussion with representatives of the medical marijuana industry, the board also eased restrictions on the days and times of operation for dispensaries, lifted a ban on advertising signs and changed the permitting requirement.
The town’s proposed regulations allowed medical marijuana dispensaries to operate only from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday. Lauren Maytin, an Aspen attorney who represents clients in the medical marijuana industry, told the council the hours would penalize patients who have an ailment flare up during their workday. They deserve an opportunity to be able to purchase medicine after work, she said, “and go home and medicate.”
“There is a benefit to providing medicine to your people of Basalt,” Maytin said.
Councilman Glenn Rappaport said the proposed hours seemed too restrictive.
“The gun ranges are open later than 4 o’clock,” he said.
Rappaport proposed allowing medical marijuana centers to stay open until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The remainder of the council concurred. Councilman Rick Stevens couldn’t attend the hearing.
The council also carried through with a pledge it made on Dec. 10 to alter its regulations to allow a center to display one sign of 6 square feet to advertise its services. The proposed regulations didn’t allow a sign.
The most heated discussion was over the permitting process. The proposed rules would have required a medical marijuana center to acquire a permit from the state government before it could apply for a local permit.
David Schoenberger vehemently objected to the proposal and accused certain town officials of writing that regulation to try to prevent him from opening a dispensary. Schoenberger said he holds a valid though inactive permit for a medical marijuana center in Basalt. He was part of a partnership that operated Basalt’s only medical marijuana dispensary for a short time before it lost its lease.
Town Attorney Tom Smith said he proposed the regulation that centers must get the state permit first to reduce the amount of administrative work the town government must do, such as background checks on the partners of a dispensary. He said it was a regulatory efficiency.
Schoenberger claimed the rule was directed at him. He vowed he would file a lawsuit against the town if it approved the rule as Smith proposed.
“I’ve waited three years to get my license back,” he said.
After the heat of the argument cooled on Wednesday, Schoenberger told The Aspen Times that medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to operate on a local permit while they go through what can be a lengthy state process. He was concerned the requirement of waiting for a state permit would create an unnecessary delay in opening a dispensary.
The council defused the feud. It decided an applicant can seek the Basalt permit without first possessing a state permit.
Town Manager Mike Scanlon said processing an application wouldn’t create that much work for the town staff. The town is allowing only two medical marijuana dispensaries, he noted.
Next up for Basalt on the marijuana frontier are rules on retail outlets and grow operations. Council members said previously that they want to have regulations on retail operations in place and a moratorium lifted halfway through 2014.
It seems likely that the two allowed medical marijuana dispensaries will open sometime in the first quarter of 2014.