Town of Eagle: No more pot dispensaries
Eagle Valley Enterprise
Aspen, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colo. – A couple of years after a contentious debate allowed the operation of medical-marijuana dispensaries in Eagle, another split vote Tuesday night banned such operations in the community.
As the Colorado Legislature works to refine the state’s medical-marijuana regulations, the Eagle Town Board decided to reconsider the option of banning dispensaries in the community. Similar bans have already been enacted in Vail, Avon and Gypsum.
The difference in Eagle, however, is that there is an existing medical-marijuana dispensary in operation. As members of the Town Board debated the ordinance, Sweet Leaf Pioneer owner Dave Manzanares urged them to continue allowing his operation.
“I sure would hope you wouldn’t kick us out of town,” Manzanares said. He said he has made an extensive investment in his business. “This $125,000 business is everything to my family.”
Several customers and co-workers also lobbied on Sweet Leaf’s behalf.
Employee Mike Friend said the dispensary operation has been a model for other such operations statewide. He pointed to a report from the Eagle Police Department showing there had been no infractions reported at the business since it opened. He asked the board to “look past the propaganda that has been pounded into your heads your entire life.
“A vote against medical marijuana is a vote against economic development here in the town of Eagle,” Friend said. “Now is the time to stand behind business.”
The Sweet Leaf operation did find some support from Town Board members.
“They are more regulated, essentially, than anything else in this community, and they have toed the line,” member Yuri Kostick said.
He argued that even if the town decided to ban future dispensary operations, it should grandfather the Sweet Leaf operation as a nonconforming, pre-existing use.
Eagle Mayor Ed Woodland and board member Mikel Kerst also voiced opposition to the dispensary ban and their support of a grandfather exception for Sweet Leaf. But as they have since the beginning of the medical-marijuana discussion, members Roxie Deane, Kraige Kinney and Scot Webster firmly supported the ordinance to ban dispensaries.
Deane reiterated that her objection deals with treating marijuana as a medicine, saying a better model would be to approach its regulation similar to liquor law.
“Is it a pharmaceutical? Is it medicine, or is it liquor? Pharmaceuticals aren’t taxed, liquor is,” Deane said.
Kinney said he supported the Colorado Constitutional amendment that allowed medical marijuana, thinking the substance would be dispensed from pharmacies, not from for-profit dispensaries.
“I have always been opposed to this since day 1,” Webster said. “I don’t believe, at the end of the day, having dispensaries makes Eagle a better place.”
Trustee Scott Turnipseed cut straight to the issue when he introduced himself as the “swing vote” on the issue. He said during the past few weeks, Eagle has approved regulations for medical-marijuana caregivers and said he believes those regulations will meet the needs of current and prospective patients.
“It is not my intention to hurt Dave Manzanares or his family, and I’m not here to run him out of town,” Turnipseed said.
Turnipseed urged his fellow board members to allow sufficient time for Sweet Leaf to find a new location in unincorporated Eagle County or to organize a ballot referendum to allow Eagle residents the opportunity to vote on the matter. Turnipseed argued against a grandfather provision, saying that allowing only one dispensary in town didn’t seem like a fair compromise.
In the split vote – Deane, Kinney, Turnipseed and Webster in favor and Woodland, Kostick and Kerst opposed – the board approved the dispensary ban and gave an operation extension until Nov. 1 for the Sweet Leaf Pioneer.
Contacted after the vote, Manzanares said the Town Board’s action “betrayed the will of the voters.”
“We are looking at a ballot or a lawsuit, and that’s a decision that we won’t be making tonight,” Manzanares said.
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