Carbondale zones out over medical marijuana | AspenTimes.com

Carbondale zones out over medical marijuana

John StroudPost Independent Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE – New medical marijuana dispensaries will be prohibited in first-floor streetfront spaces along Main Street and Highway 133, under a new zoning ordinance approved 3-1 by Carbondale trustees Tuesday night.In addition, a 400-foot area extending in all four directions from the Main Street and Highway 133 intersection would be completely off limits to any medical marijuana businesses facing the street, upstairs or down.Under the new rules, any commercial cultivation or infused medical marijuana products manufacturing is to be limited to certain industrial and commercial zone districts, and will be subject to a special-use permit review by the Town Board.And, all product grown or manufactured within town limits is to supply Carbondale-based dispensaries only.Earlier this year, the Carbondale board passed a separate ordinance establishing licensing fees for medical marijuana businesses. It sets a buffer that prohibits such operations from locating within 1,000 feet of a public or private school, preschool or college.The Carbondale Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended changing that buffer to 500 feet, in conjunction with the new zoning regulations.Because of the number of schools currently scattered around Carbondale, and the relative small size of the town, the 1,000-foot limit would effectively limit new dispensaries to a narrow strip at Main and Highway 133, P&Z Chairman Ben Bohmfalk said at the Tuesday meeting.”That essentially puts everything at the most prominent intersection in town,” he said. “The goal is that you don’t want these uses to be in the main public view, or in student thoroughfares to and from school.”A 500-foot school buffer could still accomplish that goal, Bohmfalk said. He also suggested that the distance be measured using the most direct pedestrian route between schools and medical marijuana businesses, rather than a straight line. That would be similar to the way buffer zones are measured for state liquor licenses.”This would help avoid the unintended consequence of concentrating these businesses all in one small area,” Bohmfalk said.But trustees decided to stick with the 1,000-foot buffer.Carbondale currently has a moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses through the end of this year, although a statewide moratorium has been extended until July of next year. The town may also extend its moratorium in order to be consistent with the state, which is one of 16 states where medical marijuana is legal.Collectively, Carbondale’s rules for establishing and operating medical marijuana businesses are among the most restrictive anywhere in Colorado. The only exception would be the few jurisdictions that have prohibited such activities altogether.If one town trustee has her way, prohibition could be the next conversation in Carbondale as well.”I look at this [zoning ordinance] and I question where, from a community perspective, we’re going with this,” said Trustee Elizabeth Murphy, who was the only one of the four trustees present at Tuesday’s meeting to vote against the ordinance.Mayor Stacey Bernot and Trustees Pam Zentmyer and John Hoffmann were in favor. Trustees Frosty Merriott, John Foulkrod and Ed Cortez were absent from the meeting.”I think we need to look at the broader conversation on whether we want to consider prohibiting these businesses … instead of figuring out how to hide them,” Murphy said.”We need to consider the impact on youth who are being exposed to this,” she said. “There are so many human service and public safety issues that we’re not addressing.”Even if a majority of the town board is not inclined to ban commercial medical marijuana activity, Murphy said the question should be put to town voters.Under Carbondale’s new zoning and licensing rules, existing medical marijuana dispensaries, which now number eight, would be grandfathered in as a non-conforming use once the laws take effect.Any changes to those businesses, such as new ownership or expansion, would mean they would have to close or relocate to an allowed location.The zoning ordinance also places restrictions on signage for medical marijuana retail businesses, and requires that cultivation and infused products manufacturing provide 30 percent of the energy they use on site using renewable energy sources.jstroud@postindependent.com