Vail Valley Voices: Eagle trustees send business up in smoke | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley Voices: Eagle trustees send business up in smoke

Jan Rosenthal Townsend
Vail, CO, Colorado

Although there was an Eagle County ballot issue last fall, which was in favor of the state constitutional amendment allowing for medical marijuana dispensaries, Eagle as a town had not yet voted on it.

A little bit of history according to the Vail Daily: Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, allowing patients to designate a person other than his or her physician as a “caregiver.” That language opened up the door for the dispensaries. Before the state’s new laws passed, patients with medical marijuana cards simply designated the owner of the dispensary as his or her “caregiver,” which gave the dispensary the right to grow plants for the patient.

The Eagle Town Board voted in favor of dispensaries in late 2009 and had allowed two separate dispensaries to operate within the town limits.

Dave Manzanares opened one of them, Sweet Leaf Pioneer in Eagle, which was approved by the board. Manzaneres and his family invested most of their life savings ($125,000) into this business and fully complied with numerous rules and regulations.

It may be interesting to note that regulations for these types of establishments are far more stringent than what most (if not all) businesses have to deal with.

Now, with the onset of a new bill that gives local governments the power to ban these businesses, the Eagle Town Board (in a vote of 4-3) decided to ban dispensaries without grandfathering in Sweet Leaf Pioneer.

The trustees even went so far as to discuss their personal agendas on whether marijuana is a legitimate medicinal agent. Three board members — Roxie Deane, Scott Webster and Kraige Kinney — also questioned the validity of marijuana’s medicinal purposes.

In the last vote on Feb. 22, board member Scott Turnipseed joined Deane, Webster and Kinney in the ban, would not consider the grandfather clause, and suggested that the issue be put to a ballot vote in November since he believed the county vote to approve dispensaries didn’t necessarily represent the needs of Eagle.

The big question: Why would they not allow this legitimate business to be grandfathered in, thus saving a local business and helping patients in need?

Let’s consider a few things here. Pharmacies dispense extremely potent, addictive drugs, and these prescribed drugs are huge business.

Are local government meetings held to determine whether we should let pharmacies exist? No. It is just assumed that the drugs they sell (which are an outrageously profitable business for the drug manufacturers) are a basic necessity, just a fact of modern day life.

Watch any national news broadcast and note which advertisements air the most. Yes, that’s right. Prescription drugs.

Facts are that we have an abundance of liquor stores in Eagle, even though it’s a well-known fact that alcohol abuse causes accidents, vehicular deaths, domestic violence, serious health problems, etc.

Eagle Police Chief Roger McLaughlin testified that there have been no violent incidences as a result of the use of marijuana.

I have to ask (as many other citizens have that I have spoken with) when marijuana has been legalized in numerous states for medical purposes and there is all sorts of proof within the medical community that it helps people with a host of different ailments, why do our elected officials’ personal feelings come into play?

Being an Eagle business owner, the real bone of contention for me is that our town government is going against the backbone of this community (small, locally owned businesses) and are choosing to ruin the livelihood of a vested local and businessman.

This votes essentially destroys a small business that was approved by the town, totally complied with rules and regs, and asked for no tax incentives. This ban not only puts someone out of business, but also denies access to legitimate medicine to approved patients in western Eagle County.

Why couldn’t they just vote to grandfather this one business in? Now, due to their poor judgment, the town of Eagle may have a lawsuit on its hands, and our tax dollars footing the bill.

To add salt to the wound, three out of four of these trustees were “yes” votes to the hotly debated Eagle River Station mixed-use project last year. It’s totally ironic that these trustees (against the will of the people, as ERS was voted down in a local referendum) voted yes to ERS even though most of the testimony (both in person and in writing) clearly led to the denial of this massive, inappropriate project.

Now, just a little over a year later, again, against the will of the people, these same people are voting in direct conflict with what the people want.

This is supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But just as with national politics, we seemingly have government intervention into our private lives.

There was no one speaking out against Manzanares’s business at the meetings. In fact, he had a lot of support from a cross section of business people and citizens.

The real icing on the cake is that these three trustees bent over backwards to get approval for ERS, contending that we so desperately needed new business here and the sales tax revenue from ERS (even though we wouldn’t have seen it for 20-plus years, if ever).

Sweet Leaf Pioneer was a legitimate, tax-producing local business. He asked for no special consideration or tax rebates, like ERS did. And now, due to the ban, even after he was allowed to open his business, a local businessman’s dreams are destroyed, along with the livelihood of a local citizen.

This is ludicrous and hypocrisy. It’s also very questionable leadership.

It’s time to take a stand for small, locally owned businesses. It’s time to uphold the voices and will of the people. It’s really time for new management and leadership in Eagle

Jan Rosenthal Townsend is an Eagle resident and business owner.


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