Garfield County sets deadline for medical marijuana regs
Post Independent contributor
Aspen, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Garfield Board of County Commissioners has set itself a June 18 deadline to approve land use regulations for medical marijuana growers in the county.
The commissioners are required to approve zoning rules before July 1, when a two-year countywide moratorium on medical grow facilities expires. The commissioners enacted the moratorium in 2010, and let voters weigh in on three medical marijuana related questions in November of that year.
Voters approved allowing medical marijuana growers in unincorporated areas of the county, but rejected dispensaries and manufacturing of marijuana infused products.
Although Commissioners Tom Jankovsky and John Martin seemed ready to move forward with regulations at their Monday meeting, Commissioner Mike Samson expressed reservations.
Jankovsky said he had seen medical marijuana start to “trickle down” and become available to local young people.
“I share Mr. Jankovsky’s concerns about the youth of this county very much, and I have grave concerns,” said Samson.
Commissioners considered several questions about where grow facilities should be permitted to locate, including their proximity to local schools, parks and places of worship. They also discussed whether to allow grow facilities in parts of the county zoned “rural,” and whether grow facilities in Garfield County would be permitted to sell their products through dispensaries in other counties.
Jankovsky made his position clear, proposing that the commission require a 1,000-foot buffer zone between grow facilities and schools, parks or churches, in accordance with state law. He also proposed that growers be restricted to commercial zone districts and banned from rural zones, because of concerns about ease of enforcement. He also proposed that Garfield County growers be allowed to sell their products only within the county.
Lauren Maytin, an Aspen attorney who represents a range of growers, dispensary owners and patients, told the commissioners that banning grow operations from rural zone districts was restrictive and unnecessary from an enforcement perspective, since the facilities are already under heavy surveillance in accordance with state law.
“There are cameras at every 90 degree angle, there is nothing in those business that isn’t seen,” she said.
She also objected to restrictions on where growers located in the county could sell. “The notion of restricting Garfield County growers to selling in Garfield County is so limiting and destructive to business,” she said. “I thought that was off the table.”
If approved June 18, Jankovsky’s favored provisions would have a major impact on businesses like Pete Tramm’s. Tramm, who owns a dispensary and a marijuana-infused products outlet in Aspen, as well as a grow facility on the outskirts of Carbondale, testified before the commissioners at their Monday meeting.
“I would hope that you not stifle our ability to do business,” he said, noting that he grows in Garfield County and sells in Pitkin, a practice which could be illegal if Jankovsky’s proposal is made law.
Once new zoning rules are adopted June 18, growers like Tramm who are already operating in Garfield County will likely have to submit to individual review to ensure that they are in compliance. If they can prove that they were operating prior to the county’s 2010 moratorium, they may be exempted from certain rules, such as the multi-county sales restrictions.
For now, their future business environment remains murky.
Coloradans legalized medical marijuana in 2001 through a constitutional amendment, but in 2010 a piece of state legislation, House Bill 1284, gave local governments the exclusive authority to regulate growth and sale of the substance through zoning and licensing programs. Despite its legality, Tramm said proponents of medical marijuana are still overcoming a major stigma attached to the drug.
“We are bringing this out of the shadows,” he said. “It’s a nonextractive business, not very different from the local food movement. It’s a way for the county to generate sales tax, and if you don’t zone this correctly, these jobs will trickle out to other counties.”
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.