Settlement sets stage for medical-marijuana vote
EAGLE, Colorado – Last week, the town of Eagle and the community’s lone medical-marijuana dispensary settled a lawsuit, clearing the way for a municipal election that will decide whether dispensaries will be allowed.
On Jan. 3, Eagle voters will cast ballots about the future of medical-marijuana dispensaries in the community. And according to the terms of the settlement, Sweet Leaf Pioneer will remain open pending the outcome of the vote.
“We are very excited to be able to stay open until the Jan. 3 election. The community was a huge support, and we want to thank them,” said Dieneka Manzanares, of Sweet Leaf Pioneer.
Earlier this month, Sweet Leaf turned in enough valid petition signatures to call for an election in Eagle regarding medical marijuana. Under Colorado law, Eagle is required to 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 existed 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.
Last month, Sweet Leaf Pioneer owner Dave Manzanares also 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 contained 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 Sweet Leaf Pioneer an operation extension until Nov. 1. Part of the Manzanares lawsuit sought 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 asserted.
The suit sought unspecified damages, attorney’s fees and costs and asked for a jury trial.
As part of the settlement agreement, Sweet Leaf Pioneer has abandoned its damages claims in exchange for the ability to remain open pending the vote.
“Any time the town gets sued, we look at the practical issues of the litigation,” said Eagle Mayor Ed Woodland. “It just made more sense to allow them to stay open until the election, and in exchange for staying open, they abandoned their claims for damages.”