Carbondale wrestles with medical pot regs
CARBONDALE – At least one Carbondale town board member would like to see the question of whether to prohibit local medical marijuana businesses taken to a town vote.”I think this council has done a terrible job in letting this get out of hand,” Trustee Elizabeth Murphy said during a discussion Tuesday of proposed zoning regulations aimed at controlling medical marijuana retail businesses, commercial growing operations and manufacturing of products containing marijuana.”Personally, I would hope this eventually goes to the voters,” said Murphy, an often vocal critic of the proliferation of medical marijuana businesses in Carbondale.At last count, Carbondale had 11 dispensaries operating within town limits, and at least one known commercial growing operation.”I think we’re setting a very bad image for our kids and our community,” Murphy said. “That’s not what we’ve worked for in this town.”Last year, the Town Board imposed a moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses through the end of 2011. The moratorium was intended to allow the town to come up with its own regulatory rules in addition to state regulations that are set to take effect this summer.Like other towns and counties, though, Carbondale is concerned about a recent warning from the federal government that marijuana remain an illegal substance under federal law.The U.S. Attorney General advised in late April that state and local governments should be careful in legitimizing the sale and possession of marijuana, even for certified medical patients.Colorado voters, in 2000, legalized marijuana possession and use by persons with qualifying medical conditions.Banning medical marijuana businesses, either outright or limiting activity to certain types of businesses, is an option under state law, Carbondale Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Ben Bohmfalk reminded Town Board members at the meeting.That would require a town vote, however, as other Colorado municipalities and counties have done. The question can either be referred to the ballot by the town board, or by a petition of registered voters in the town.So far, though, Murphy has been the only Town Board member to make the suggestion.Others have been inclined to control medical marijuana businesses through a series of ordinances related to zoning and licensing.One ordinance that has already been approved establishes local licensing fees and spells out rules for ownership of such businesses. Another addresses personal use and growing of medical marijuana in residential neighborhoods.A third proposed ordinance deals with zoning regulations for commercial operations, such as dispensaries and larger-scale growing facilities.Carbondale is looking to restrict such businesses to locating no closer than 1,000 feet from schools, including colleges and preschools.That would eliminate several existing businesses, unless they are allowed to remain as a non-conforming use until they sell or expand. The town does have discretion in that, according to attorney Sherry Caloia, who is helping the town draft the ordinances.However, Bohmfalk and other P&Z members said the 1,000-foot restriction could be counter to the town’s goals, by forcing medical marijuana businesses to be clustered in certain parts of town.The proposed zoning ordinance will be back before the town board on June firstname.lastname@example.org
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