Eagle County limits medical marijuana dispensaries
September 8, 2009
EAGLE, Colo. – When Michael Hiland and Scott Zieglar were looking for space for a medical marijuana dispensary, they were already thinking hard about its location. Now the two are confident they’re in compliance with a new county regulation that limits where dispensaries can do business.
The Eagle County commissioners Tuesday passed a resolution limiting where medical marijuana dispensaries can do business.
Nearly a decade after state voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the first commercial dispensary opened this year. As many as three more are set to open over the next several weeks. The new regulation is a response to that sudden influx.
While the new, temporary rules – which will be replaced in the next 90 days or so by a more carefully-crafted set of regulations – limit where dispensaries can do business, the county can’t completely ban medical marijuana stores.
County Attorney Bryan Treu told the commissioners that, while state law allows counties to regulate a handful of specific businesses, that power doesn’t extend to medical marijuana shops.
“If you don’t have enumerated powers to do something, you can’t do it,” Treu said. “But you can regulate via zoning.”
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That’s what the new regulations do, limiting dispensaries to areas limited to commercial or industrial uses. The regulation also prohibits shops within 200 feet of homes and public parks, and within 500 feet of schools or day-care centers. They also can’t be within 200 feet of another dispensary.
Shops that are already open will be allowed to continue to do business in their current locations.
But Hiland and Zieglar said the state already limits where dispensaries can do business. That’s why they picked the former Eagle County Sheriff’s substation in Edwards for their shop, called the Holistic Healing Center. The partners hope to be open in the next few weeks.
In an interview last week, Andrew “Ziggy” Zweigbaum, co-owner of the New Hope Wellness Center, also in Edwards, said he, too, carefully picked a place to open.
Hiland and Zieglar said basically the same thing. They’ll see patients by appointment only, and their dispensary will be on the lower level of a building, off street level and behind two locked doors.
Still, the sudden influx of dispensaries upset Buddy and Bonnie Sims of Edwards enough to come to the commissioners’ meeting.
Sims read the commissioners a statement and asked that they ban any new stores and require business licenses for dispensaries. The county can’t legally do either of those things.
Sims also asked the county to perform some sort of quality control on the products sold at dispensaries, an idea that commissioner Peter Runyon said has some merit.
After the meeting, Bonnie Sims, a school teacher for more than 30 years, said marijuana, whether for medical use or not, is still a mind-altering drug.
“We’re making it seem like it’s no big deal,” she said.
Sims, who said she has her own health problems, said she’s learned to deal with pain and discomfort.
“I’m not going to take something that kills brain cells to take care of it,” she said.
But Zieglar, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, brought a large plastic bag of prescription bottles to the hearing. He said he prefers medical marijuana to treat his symptoms.
Jerry Olson, who recently opened Medical Marijuana of the Rockies in Frisco, said dispensaries give patients safe, secure access to marijuana.
“There’s a need here, and a significant need,” Olson said.
But the need didn’t really enter into the conversation about the regulations.
“Voters chose to allow this,” Runyon said. “We have to (allow) this, independent of any commissioner’s feelings on the larger issue at hand.”