Does the county love Mary Jane?
May 25, 2012
We’d like to commend the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners for its informal decision Tuesday to give the county manager the responsibility for issuing licenses for medical marijuana operations. A formal decision is likely next month.
Until now, the county has left medical marijuana issues alone as long as an operation met state requirements. For nearly two years, county leaders have batted around a few ideas on the subject but never seemed in a hurry to reach consensus.
The county’s legal counsel also was concerned that by sanctioning such businesses, the county would be risking prosecution from federal authorities. As we all know, Uncle Sam still holds that marijuana – even in medicinal form – is illegal, even if some of those whacked-out states condone it.
The county’s reluctance to get directly involved in licensing and regulation amounted to silently passing the buck, and state regulators had enough of it. Early this year, the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division sought compliance with laws passed by the Colorado Assembly in 2010 that said counties had to adopt rules and set a deadline for compliance.
We appreciate that commissioners (a majority, anyway) chose County Manager Jon Peacock to issue the licenses instead of deciding to leave each licensing case up to them. As Rachel Richards pointed out, the county’s industry then would become politicized. The medical marijuana industry helps a lot of people in the community, and the last thing it needs is to fall victim to a highly charged atmosphere and petty public controversies -the sort that media entities and political opportunists love to get their hands on.
While we are confident that most commissioners will follow the direction the board set for itself earlier this week, we also might suggest that the county go no further than to issue licenses for a fee and pursue commonality with only what state law mandates. Some unincorporated communities in Pitkin County have expressed an interest in banning such businesses, whether dispensaries or grow houses or both, a move that would serve to pit villages and neighbors against one another – politicizing the process and further dividing the county.
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The commissioners should officially approve this simple step of administrative control on licensing before July 1 and then turn away from the prospect of special zoning areas or village-by-village control of business locations. Current zoning allows for commercial and agricultural businesses, and the
marijuana-healing industry deserves the rights afforded to other U.S. small businesses.
Residents countywide should be of one mind on the issue and set another great local example for the rest of humankind. Bob Marley said it best: Let’s get together and feel all right.