Eagle County OKs pot rules
Aspen, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – People now operating medical marijuana dispensaries in Eagle County can keep their doors open. New shops are going to have a tougher time finding a home.
County commissioners Tuesday passed a set of new regulations that put serious limits on where new dispensaries can open. The new regulations prohibit new dispensaries within 500 feet of a long list of schools, churches, homes and other public and private buildings. There’s no place in Edwards or the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county (an area that includes El Jebel and part of Basalt) that meets the new regulations, and only small areas of Eagle-Vail, Wolcott, McCoy and the Gypsum area do.
The new regulations replace a set of temporary regulations passed last year. Those regulations were passed after more than a half-dozen shops either opened or announced the intent to do so. While Colorado has had a voter-approved medical marijuana law on the books for about a decade, it took an announcement last year from the U.S. Department of Justice that it wouldn’t prosecute growers obeying state medical marijuana laws to open the floodgates for dispensaries.
Since then, local governments, as well as the Colorado Legislature have been working to regulate dispensaries.
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Eagle County Attorney Bryan Treu said the new regulations take a position the county can defend in court if necessary. The way to do that, he said, is through zoning regulations.
“Even lawful businesses are subject to zoning laws,” Treu said. “It avoids the passionate debates on the legitimacy of medical marijuana.”
Medical marijuana dispensaries can’t be banned just because a local government doesn’t like the idea, Treu said.
And that idea framed Tuesday’s hearing. Commissioner Jon Stavney made clear before opening the hearing to public comments that this wouldn’t be a debate about the value of medical marijuana, only the regulations that will govern new dispensaries.
That left little room for public comments, which mostly covered specifics of the new regulations, such as who can grow medical marijuana and where. The answer, for now, is only currently-operating dispensaries, pending completion of another set of regulations about growing.
A group of Burns-area residents asked some pointed questions about whether a dispensary or growing operation could legally open in that area (the answer is no).
“We’re against it,” Burns-area resident Mike Lederhause said. “We don’t need people stoned driving up and down the (Colorado) River Road … If this is real medicine, it ought to be dispensed at a licensed pharmacy.”
While current owners can stay in business in their current locations, new operators may end up with a long search.
Anne Nicol said she represents a pair of doctors who would like to open a dispensary in the Eagle area, but said she’s having a hard time finding a legal place to do it. Combined with the regulations’ language about obtaining marijuana products, it could be even more difficult to open a new dispensary.
But, Fisher said, the new regulations tread a fine line.
“As a board of county commissioners, it serves us well to be conservative, but not so conservative that we end up in court,” Fisher said. “I think we’re treating it diligently and respectfully to both sides.”
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