Eagle County ponders easing medical marijuana rules
May 31, 2011
EAGLE, Colorado – In the aftermath of a non-binding vote by citizens that nevertheless demonstrated some strong support for medical marijuana operations, Tuesday the Eagle County Commissioners discussed easing up on the regulations governing such operations.
Noting that they want to fine-tune their rule changes, the commissioners tabled formal action on the issue until June 14. During their discussion, they noted that the county’s new regulations are aimed at providing more options for medical marijuana businesses.
Last November, a general medical marijuana question presented by Eagle County garnered support from 56 percent of the voters.
“More votes were cast in favor on that issue than any other issue including the governor,” noted Commissioner Peter Runyon.
With the information from the voters in hand, the county set to work re-examining the self-described prohibitive rules enacted for medical marijuana operations back in 2009.
Under the proposed changes, medical marijuana operations would be an allowed use in commercial general and commercial limited zone districts. Required setbacks from churches, schools and residential areas would remain in place but the distance required would drop from 500 feet to 200 feet. In general terms, the new regs would open up 117.5 acres to the use. The old rules limited medical marijuana operations to about five acres.
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Local attorneys Rohn Robbins and Beth Ayres spoke in favor of the changes and advocated for specific clients during the hearing. Robbins also asked the county to address the issue of the number of plants allowed for cultivation by a registered medical marijuana caregiver. State law allows for caregivers to cultivate up to six plants were patient and they are allowed to grow for a maximum of five patients in addition to their own use. Applying those figures, he urged the county to specify up to 36 plants can be grown by an individual caregiver.
As part of its consideration, the county noted it does not plan to license medical marijuana businesses aside from requiring operations to complete the Colorado state licensing process. Robbins noted that the state process is an exacting one. He said his client, Herbal Elements, had to submit an 800-page application to the state that contained an extensive amount of information.
“There is a tremendous vetting beyond anything else in the state,” said Robbins.
He noted that medical marijuana operations are often compared to alcohol licensed facilities, but said they are held to a much higher standard.
“I would ask you to remember the last time you hear of a medical marijuana dispensary fight and the last time you heard of a bar fight,” said Robbins.
After discussing the caregiver-cultivation issue and noting staff had completed an “exhaustive” review of the issue, the board agreed to include the 36-plant threshold in the regulation and directed staff to formalize that discussion for an official vote in two weeks.