Glenwood Springs won’t ban medical marijuana businesses | VailDaily.com

Glenwood Springs won’t ban medical marijuana businesses

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The City Council is not inclined to seek an outright ban on medical marijuana facilities within the city limits of Glenwood Springs, at least for now.

“I would not be in favor of an all-out ban,” City Councilor Stephen Bershenyi said, echoing other City Council members at a July 15 work session to discuss possible regulatory measures designed to control the burgeoning medical marijuana business within city limits.

“Even though people didn’t see it evolving into what we have now, I agree,” added Councilor Russ Arensman. “The voters were clear [voting in 2000 to legalize medical marijuana], and we ought to respect that.”

However, the city is likely to impose zoning regulations on the new industry, including where medical marijuana retail centers and the grow facilities that supply them can be located, and how far they should be from school zones.

Last month, City Council imposed a moratorium on any new medical marijuana centers (formerly referred to as dispensaries) in the city until it can discuss regulatory controls.

In the meantime, new state regulations went into effect July 1 placing a one-year moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses, so that new licensing requirements, including criminal background checks for operators, to be put into place for existing facilities.

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The state rules also allow leeway for municipalities and counties to impose their own zoning and licensing regulations on medical marijuana facilities, including prohibiting such operations within their jurisdictions altogether.

Several communities have already banned medical marijuana centers, while others are going to their local voters to decide the issue.

“Any rules we come up with would affect commercial operations, but not personal use,” Glenwood city planner A’Lissa Gerum said at the July 15 meeting. “Medical marijuana centers and grow facilities are all we’re looking at.”

The 2000 medical marijuana law allows individuals, with a doctor’s recommendation, to register with the state to possess and use marijuana for medical purposes. It also allowed for “caregivers” to provide medical marijuana to registered patients.

Only in the last year or so have medical marijuana centers begun to proliferate throughout Colorado. Glenwood Springs currently has nine medical marijuana centers in operation, most of them clustered in the downtown area.

The new state law also requires that medical marijuana centers cultivate at least 70 percent of the marijuana that they have on hand for patients, but not necessarily on the same site as the retail operation, Gerum explained.

“So, if we allow them, we need to be able to allow them to supply themselves,” she said.

City Council agreed that future grow facilities should be limited to the city’s industrial zone districts, primarily for security reasons and because of the potential fire hazard such operations could create in commercial or residential zone districts.

Glenwood Police Chief Terry Wilson, who attended the work session, said his department has been advised of an 8,000-square-foot space in the downtown area that is being developed for a grow operation.

“It is in a building that has been in industrial use, but is in the HP [Hillside Preservation] zone district,” he said. “It’s not real obvious, in fact you would probably never know it was there.”

Wilson said his department typically looks at security measures and any potential criminal dangers when it conducts what so-far has been a “quasi” review of such facilities.

The city may also look at imposing its own licensing fees and other measures.

“We do have to consider the cost impact of these operations,” Mayor Bruce Christensen said. “It’s not that we’re trying to profit on something, it’s that there are costs we are trying to recover.”

The city is also exploring minimum distance requirements, both between medical marijuana centers and how close they can be to schools, parks and alcohol/drug treatment facilities.

The new state law suggests 1,000 feet separation. However, local jurisdictions can come up with their own minimum distance requirements. Glenwood may be leaning toward 500 feet.

“If we used the 1,000-foot requirement, it would kill a bunch of the existing facilities,” Gerum said.

The matter will continue to be discussed at future City Council work sessions before a set of regulations for the medical marijuana industry will be drawn up.

jstroud@postindependent.com