Routt County approves medical marijuana dispensary moratorium |

Routt County approves medical marijuana dispensary moratorium

Commissioners' vote was unanimous

Zach Fridell

Routt County officials discuss a temporary moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses Tuesday in the Commissioners Hearing Room. No members of the public showed up to speak at the meeting.

— No members of the public showed up to speak Tuesday afternoon as the Routt County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a moratorium on medical marijuana facilities in rural parts of the county.

The moratorium means the county won't accept any more applications for permits or licenses to open a business "that cultivates, processes or dispenses medical marijuana."

Commissioners waited an extra five minutes to start the meeting to allow any potential speakers to get through traffic.

The moratorium will remain in place at least until the end of the year to allow commissioners time to consider their options for how to regulate, or not regulate, medical marijuana businesses in rural parts of the county.

The moratorium came a day after Gov. Bill Ritter approved a law that allows local governments to regulate and ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The moratorium does not use the authority of that law, relying instead on the land use code of the county.

The county until now has not differentiated between businesses when looking at permit applications — a medical marijuana dispensary was treated the same as a general store — but Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips said the staff would like to have more direction. The commissioners will have time to decide that direction during the moratorium period.

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"I am assuming that if we pass this regulation today, then staff will work to review this state legislation and create some kind of list for us of the options we will have," Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.

Marijuana growing in areas where agriculture is allowed is not banned by the moratorium because those growers do not need any land-use permits. Routt County Attorney John Merrill stressed that the county land-use codes do not supersede federal law, and those growers could run into problems if they operate illegally.

Milner dispensary allowed

The law will not affect the land-use permit for Aloha's, the only dispensary to submit an application to the county.

The Routt Coun­­ty Planning Com­­mission in May approved the land-use application by Chris Ward to open the business in Mil­ner, contingent on a list of requirements.

Ward said Tues­­­day that he missed the meeting with commissioners be­cause of heavy traffic.

Ward said he is working to open his business in the county because the rules in Steamboat Springs pushed him out of town, and he doesn't like the idea of the county using the same tactic.

"It's just weird that nobody else can open up in the county anywhere else," he said. "You know what I mean? There's a lot of county here."

Ward has been working on the readying building, in a commercially zoned area of county control along U.S. Highway 40 in Milner, since January.

He said the moratorium could help his business because he will have a monopoly in the western part of the county, but he would like to see more opportunities for business owners.

The Hayden Town Council denied a request to allow a dispensary in May.

Aloha's will go up for a final inspection in about a week and a half, he said, and he hopes to open the dispensary a few days after that.

"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you know what I mean?" he said.