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Winter Park, Granby declare moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Towns in Grand County are passing emergency resolutions to hold off medical marijuana dispensaries until new laws are drafted to regulate such businesses.

“Quite a few” proprietors of medical marijuana have contacted the town of Winter Park about setting up a facility, according to Winter Park Town Manager Drew Nelson.

One proprietor applied for a business license, but the application was denied based on zoning issues, Nelson said.



The inquiries prompted lawmaking research on how dispensaries should be governed within the town.

Last week, the Winter Park Town Council implemented a 90-day moratorium on such businesses, which under the present code, could be allowed under medical clinics or other commercial endeavors.



The town of Granby passed its form of the emergency resolution on Tuesday, putting into effect a 180-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. Business license applications for such businesses will not be reviewed during that time until the town has related laws in place.

Town officials in Grand Lake will be voting on a similar law on Monday – one with a six-month moratorium, and Fraser officials have it on their agenda for next Wednesday.

Coloradans passed Amendment 20 allowing the use of medical marijuana in the November 2000 election, but the amendment left out legal guidelines for dispensaries. Towns and counties in Colorado were left scrambling to craft laws through zoning codes, such as not allowing marijuana facilities within a certain distance of schools.



As Granby town officials were left with questions about ways to regulate facilities in town, Town Trustee Greg Guthridge inquired about simply designating the town’s only pharmacy at City Market as the dispensing location.

But the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment – the branch tasked with registering user patients – maintains that pharmacies can only dispense medications that are “prescribed” and since marijuana is classified by the federal government as a Schedule I drug, it cannot be prescribed by any health care professional.

Under Colorado’s Amendment 20, doctors are allowed to recommend marijuana, and registered patients may grow medical marijuana for their own use or designate an individual who has a role in the patients’ health to grow marijuana for them.

Under the amendment, Colorado residents with debilitating medical conditions such as AIDS/HIV, severe pain, muscle spasms, cancer, severe nausea, multiple sclerosis, severe body wasting, seizure disorders and epilepsy have been allowed to use medical marijuana under the supervision of their doctors.

Since 2001, 10,795 patient application have been received by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

State health officials report that out of those, 29 applications were denied, 18 cards revoked, 199 patients died and 1,631 cards expired, leaving the total number of patients statewide at 8,918, with the average age of patients at 43 years.

As of the end of July, 40 patients in Grand County are registered medical marijuana users.

Severe pain or muscle spasms are the leading reasons for needing medical marijuana in the state, according to state data.

But a recent report from the state health department noted that in the past year, there has been a major spike in male patients under age 30 diagnosed with severe pain.

“We are concerned about the number of young men diagnosed with chronic severe debilitating pain,” said the state’s Chief Medical Officer Ned Calonge in statements released July 30. “We are evaluating strategies that might allow us to assure that physicians documenting a diagnosis of chronic or severe pain are doing so within the standards of medical care.”

The state Health Department points to a July 2007 Denver District Court judgment that suspended the state policy limiting the number of medical marijuana patients a caregiver can see. Since then, according to Calonge, the registry has “experienced a dramatic increase in registrants” and suspects “potential abuse.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail tbina@skyhidailynews.com.


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