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Vail Valley officials ready to regulate pot

Sarah Mausolf
smausolf@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Buddy Sims doesn’t want pot shops in Colorado’s Vail Valley

“I have no objection to patients that get doctors’ permits and need medical marijuana for chronic pain,” the 64-year-old Edwards resident said. “My concern is that I feel these marijuana stores are going to draw off Interstate 70 types of people that are buying marijuana that we don’t want here and the crime will follow.”

Sims has been trying to mobilize people to lobby for a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries at Tuesday’s county commissioners’ meeting.



Commissioners on Tuesday plan to vote on temporary rules that limit where dispensaries can operate. The 30-day rule would forbid dispensaries from opening within 200 feet of schools, and would go into effect immediately after the vote.

Sims thinks the county should take it a step further.



“I’d like to see some concerned citizens show up and voice their opinions to the county commissioners to make this a permanent ban,” he said.

‘Black market’

Sims fears a black market for the medical marijuana could sprout up in town.



“I don’t want to see the black market trade started here, with people buying this marijuana with medical cards and then giving it to other people who are splitting it and cutting it and selling it,” he said. “I don’t want to see it get into the high school or elementary system anymore then it probably already is now.”

With only 69 people in Eagle County registered for legal cards for medical marijuana, Sims argues dispensaries will need to attract customers from elsewhere. As a result, the dispensaries could draw unsavory people cruising along I-70, he argues.

“Why would you have three stores for 69 customers?” he said. “The customers have to be coming off of Interstate 70 or someplace else in Colorado. They’re not all not living here.”

With three medical marijuana dispensaries open or poised to open in Eagle County, officials want to buy some time while they figure out what to do about the shops.

“I want to make sure we have a game plan in place before people are spending funds to set up dispensaries,” County Commissioner Sara Fisher said.

The 30-day regulations facing commissioners would confine dispensaries to commercial and industrial zoning districts in the county. It also forbids medical marijuana sales within 200 feet of schools, parks, child care facilities, churches, drug rehabilitation facilities or community centers.

It would not apply to dispensaries that have already opened in Edwards and Eagle-Vail.

“Based on this they would not have to shut down,” county Attorney Bryan Treu said.

The 30-day rules would not apply to proposed dispensaries where owners have spent significant money on supplies or building renovations in preparation for opening, Treu said. Simply signing a lease does not exempt a proposed dispensary from the rules though, he said.

Existing dispensaries may be subject to any future, permanent regulations the county imposes on medical marijuana shops, Treu said.

Exactly what rules the county will impose on dispensaries remains to be seen.

“We’ve already heard feedback from folks on both sides of the issue,” Fisher said. “Because it’s not currently specifically addressed in Colorado statute, and it’s illegal from a federal standpoint still, we want to have the research done and the dialogue to be had as a community before making a determination on what how or if we will set any kind of long-term regulations.”

Several towns are blocking dispensaries from opening. Avon and Gypsum officials are not granting business licenses for dispensaries because officials there argue federal laws forbid them.

Avon mayor Ron Wolfe said he fears the dispensaries will attract recreational pot smokers, along with legitimate patients.

“All of the communities will become attractive for people coming in from outside the area looking to buy pot, so I think they are a negative,” he said. “I think it’s a slippery slope the community’s on.”

Wolfe also fears more people will drive around Avon under the influence of marijuana.

In Vail, officials plan to look at regulations for the dispensaries over the next few weeks. “I don’t think we’ll be bringing something forward that would prohibit them,” town attorney Matt Mire said.

Andrew Zweigbaum, owner of the New Hope Wellness Center dispensary in Edwards, argues a black market for medical marijuana is unrealistic.

“By law we’re only allowed to dispense 2 ounces to a patient at a time, and the price is pretty much what it was on the street before this came around so there’s really no profit for the black market,” he said.

Zweigbaum disagrees that the county should ban dispensaries. He doesn’t think patients should have to look to other places to buy medical marijuana.

“If you know somebody who’s bedridden or an AIDs patient or a cancer patient – Denver’s 120 miles away,” he said. “The roads are nasty in the winter. I think we’re doing a service being here.”

Heather Blaine, an Avon resident opening a dispensary in Eagle-Vail, agrees dispensaries are helping people and should be legal in the county.

“Everyone that I’ve talked to has a legitimate medical condition and there is no way that they are trying to harm children,” she said. “I think that the number of 69 medical cardholders is outdated. That’s from a few months ago.”

Boulder resident Bryan Swanton has said he wants to open a dispensary in Edwards, but could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Along with jump-starting a black market for medical marijuana, Sims fears the dispensaries could attract robbers looking for cash and drugs.

However, Zweigbaum says his store has a security system and he’s even consulted with police about the security in the store. He argues the dispensary is no more vulnerable to a break-in than a liquor store or 7-11.

“I appreciate his concern but I think we’re going to be OK,” he said.

What: County commissioners to vote on dispensary regulations

When: 10 a.m. Tuesday

Where: Eagle County Building, 500 Broadway

More information: Visit http://www.eaglecounty.us to read the proposed resolution


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