Pam Boyd

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October 26, 2011
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Eagle approves medical weed election, with one caveat

Eagle voters will have the opportunity to cast ballots about the future of medical marijuana dispensaries in the community on Jan. 3, 2012 ... with one big "if" attached.

That "if" is the settlement of a lawsuit filed last week by Sweet Leaf Pioneer, the sole medical marijuana dispensary currently operating in Eagle. Tuesday night, members of the Eagle Town Board unanimously approved a resolution calling for the Jan. 3 election contingent upon the successful settlement negotiation.

Earlier this month, the Sweet Leaf turned in petitions to call for an election in Eagle regarding the medical marijuana issue. Tuesday night, Eagle Town Clerk Marilene Miller informed the board that she had certified that the petition drive was successful. The business needed 190 valid petition signatures to force an election. The Sweet Leaf petitions contained 281 signatures and after examining the documents to determine validity, the town was able to certify that 200 of the petition signers were registered voters in the town of Eagle, as required by law.

Colorado law states with the determination that the petitions are sufficient, Eagle must present the issue to the voters at a regular or special election held not less than 60 and not more than 150 days from the date of the clerk's ruling. But because a special election cannot be held less than 90 days from the time of a regularly scheduled election, a very narrow window exists to schedule the vote. The town could present the question to the voters on Jan. 3 or at its regularly scheduled Eagle municipal election on April 3.

The town board hammered out the details of the election resolution during an executive session with Town Attorney Ed Sands. Because the issue is the subject of on-going legal negotiation, the town declined comment on the particulars of a possible settlement agreement.

Last week, Sweet Leaf Pioneer owner Dave Manzanares filed a lawsuit in Eagle County District Court seeking an injunction against a town board-approved ban of medical marijuana businesses in Eagle. The lawsuit also contains several appeals for damages.

Back in 2009, Eagle approved an ordinance to allow medical marijuana operations in the town, but in February of this year the town board enacted a ban of such businesses. Citing revised rules from the Colorado Legislature governing the operation of medical marijuana operations, the town followed the actions of Vail, Avon and Gypsum in enacting the ban. At the time of the vote, the town board gave the Sweet Leaf Pioneer an operation extension until Nov. 1. Part of the Manzanares lawsuit seeks an injunction to prevent the town from imposing its Nov. 1 ban deadline.

Additional claims in the lawsuit seek money damages asserting that Manzanares' was denied due process as a result of the town board's action. The suit claims Manzanares invested nearly $150,000 in his business. "The town of Eagle effectively changed the Plaintiff's permit from a legal use to an illegal use," the lawsuit asserts.

The suit seeks unspecified damages, attorney's fees and costs and asks for a jury trial.

A court date of Oct. 31 has been set to hear the injunction case. Manzanares declined comment on the case Tuesday night.

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The VailDaily Updated Oct 26, 2011 12:56PM Published Oct 26, 2011 12:55PM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.