Minturn medical marijuana law still in the works | VailDaily.com
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Minturn medical marijuana law still in the works

MINTURN, Colorado – Voters last year essentially asked the Minturn Town Council to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in town. Nearly nine months later, the council hasn’t yet voted on a measure that would allow those businesses, for a number of reasons.

The main stumbling block has been the evolution of Colorado’s medical marijuana regulations. While Colorado voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2000, it took a 2009 edict from the U.S. Department of Justice that it wouldn’t prosecute medical marijuana businesses under federal law for business in the state to take off.

Since then, the business picked up significantly, and state and local lawmakers have been working to catch up with the growth in the industry ever since. The Colorado Legislature has spent time the last two years creating and refining medical marijuana regulations. The 2010 legislature passed regulations that allow towns and counties to ban the businesses. Put on the local ballot last fall, a majority of both county and Minturn voters told local governments they wanted dispensaries.

So town staff has been working for the past several months on a proposed ordinance, using models from other communities and waiting to see how state law evolves. But there are other complications. First, the town has an ordinance on the books that requires all businesses in town to comply with both state and federal law. Since marijuana possession and sale for any reason remains a federal crime, the Town Council will have to resolve that conflict.

Then there’s the fact that the council was narrowly split on putting the issue on the ballot last year, putting the question to voters by a 4-3 margin.

Minturn Town Council member George Brodin said he believes the town should have banned dispensaries outright, as state law permitted, without going to the voters first. Brodin was clear that he opposes the idea of medical marijuana in Minturn. But if an ordinance passes, he wants it to be as tightly-crafted as possible.

“For the people who use it and benefit from it – God bless ’em,” Brodin said. “But they can buy it somewhere else.”

Council member Earle Bidez said he also wants any town ordinance to well-written, and very restrictive about licensing and location. But, he said, he believes that given the result of last fall’s ballot measure, the Town Council is obligated to not just draft, but pass, an ordinance.

“It’s expected of us, so we should allow it,” Bidez said. “And this is an ordinace for medical marijuana, not recreational marijuana.”

And, while the town’s taking its time creating a legal framework for dispensaries, there’s currently a state moratorium on any new applications for dispensary licenses, so the earliest the town could even receive an application is July of next year.

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or smiller@vaildaily.com.


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