Medical marijuana is legal in Eagle |

Medical marijuana is legal in Eagle

EAGLE, Colorado –Add Eagle to the list of Western Slope communities that allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

Tuesday night in a split vote, the Eagle Town Board decided to allow dispensaries as a special use in town. But the board also opted to firm up the rules governing such operations before actually issuing a business license for one. The ordinance that details operation of medical marijuana dispensaries will come before the board in two weeks.

Back in August, Dave Manzanares applied for a business license to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in town. Colorado voters have approved the operation of such businesses, but whether or not to allow the use has been left up to individual communities. In neighboring Gypsum, for example, the town board rejected dispensaries outright. In August, Eagle town board members opted to place a three-month moratorium on business licenses for dispensaries to research how such operations could be regulated.

Tuesday night, town staff brought back a ordinance detailing the rules for dispensaries as a special use in Eagle. The ordinance generally patterned the special use rules after the regulations imposed on liquor licenses. The rules also called for a larger permit fee of $1,000 recognizing the additional staff time that would be involved in processing a medical marijuana dispensary application and called for a 100-foot separation between dispensaries and schools, child-care centers and pediatric doctor offices.

Manzanares urged the board to approve his license noting he is a lifelong resident of the Eagle Valley who plans to operate his dispensary in an ethical and responsible manner.

“I believe marijuana is all good in its medical purpose,” said Manzanares. “I would hope the board would look past opinion at this point and apply Colorado law.”

Eagle resident Joe Knable offered a differing opinion. He noted there are already a number of dispensaries operating in Eagle County and argued there is no need for one in Eagle. He also questioned the message the community would be sending by approving the use. “If it doesn’t look right and if it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right,” he said.

Board members were markedly divided in their opinions about allowing dispensaries. Member Scot Hunn called such operations “legitimate pharmaceutical businesses.”

“It’s not a pharmacy, it’s not regulated like a pharmacy. It’s not even regulated like buying a beer is,” said member Roxie Deane.

Deane and fellow board member Kraige Kinney argued against allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in Eagle, noting that the state is providing virtually no regulation on the operations. For instance, there is no state provision for criminal background checks on dispensary operators such as checks that are required for liquor license applicants.

“I think this is just ripe for abuse,” said Kinney. “At a very minimum, we should require what we do of a liquor license request.”

While debating the merits of the rules, the town board took the unusual step of going back to decide if they wanted dispensaries at all. Members Hunn, Stephen Richards, Yuri Kostick and Mikel Kerst voted in favor with Deane and Richards opposed. Mayor Ed Woodland did not cast a vote.

But board members were united in a decision to re-examine the ordinance that will govern medical marijuana dispensaries. In particular, members agreed to firm up the regulations to require background checks for operators and examine the 100-foot rule proposed in the ordinance versus a suggestion by the Eagle Planning and Zoning Commission for a 500-foot limit. Additionally, members want to see a provision in the special use that requires annual renewal, patterned after liquor license rules.

The ordinance will be back before the Eagle Town Board on Oct. 27.

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