Garfield County verifies medical marijuana grow operations | AspenTimes.com

Garfield County verifies medical marijuana grow operations

John Stroud
Post Independent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County commissioners determined Monday that three medical marijuana growing facilities operating in unincorporated parts of the county were indeed in existence before a county moratorium on such businesses went into effect in June 2010.

After hearing presentations from representatives of the businesses, commissioners found the growing facilities supporting CMD Care House and The Green House in Carbondale, and Western Slope Caregivers in Rifle, to be in good standing.

The operations, all located outside Carbondale and Rifle town limits, had been called into question by state regulators who asked the county to verify that the facilities existed before the county enacted its moratorium on June 24, 2010.

Each of the businesses offered documents stating that the leases for their respective growing facilities were signed before that date.

In all three cases, the growing facilities are operated separately from the retail dispensaries (medical marijuana centers) themselves.

CMD and The Green House both have dispensaries in Carbondale town limits, and Western Slope Caregivers operates its dispensary in downtown Rifle.

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An Oct. 19 letter from Dan Hartman, director of the state’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, said the division “cannot confirm or deny” whether the grow operations were in business before Garfield County imposed its moratorium on medical marijuana businesses.

While the dispensaries themselves were not in danger of being shut down by the state, state licenses for the growing operations could have been revoked had the necessary evidence not been provided.

In November 2010, after the moratorium went into effect, Garfield County voters banned dispensaries and manufacturing facilities related to medical marijuana. However, voters permitted the establishment of “grow operations” in areas outside the county’s six municipalities.

State law requires that dispensaries must control the growing facilities for 70 percent or more of the product they sell in order to be licensed by the state.

About a half dozen cultivation operations were known to have existed prior to the county moratorium. However, county staff is still working on a formal zoning and permitting process, which is expected to come up for consideration by the commissioners early next year. Until then, the moratorium remains in effect until July 2012.

Prior to those rules being established, any pre-existing growing facility can continue to exist, assistant county attorney Carey Gagnon said.

Chris Busley, co-owner of CMD Care House, informed the commissioners Monday that the lease for his original growing facility along County Road 100 east of Carbondale ran out, and he has since relocated.

“My business has always been forced to move ahead of the rules,” he said, asking for clarification that he would be allowed to continue to operate the grow facility in the new location.

County officials confirmed that the operation could continue, but there are no guarantees once the new zoning regulations are approved.

“If the time comes that we have the zoning in place, and your location isn’t within that zone, we will have to look at it,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.

To which Busley responded, “There are a lot of risks associated with what we’re doing. We’re all aware of that.”

jstroud@postindependent.com