Moffat County Commission extends pot dispensary moratorium |

Moffat County Commission extends pot dispensary moratorium

Brian Smith

The Moffat County Commission has decided to continue its freeze on medical marijuana dispensaries.

At a special meeting Thursday, the commission approved, 3-0, a resolution prohibiting dispensaries from opening in unincorporated parts of the county for six months.

The commission originally approved a moratorium in December 2009 to stall any dispensaries from opening until the state could regulate the industry.

The commission met in May to discuss its options for extending the moratorium, and to examine Colorado House Bill 10-1284. The bill is a regulatory bill which addresses several issues surrounding the medical marijuana industry in Colorado, including dispensary regulation and county rights.

Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bill into law Monday and it will take effect July 1.

The bill gives the commission several options, including prohibiting the medical marijuana industry in the county with the exception of residents with caregiver status or residents with a medical marijuana license, county attorney Jeremy Snow said.

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The county also can adopt the state's regulations or draft its own, which can be no less stringent than the state's,

Snow said.

The county can also pass another moratorium until July 2011 or let voters decide if they want a ban of dispensaries in the county, Snow said.

The resolution, drafted by Snow, states "it is in the best interests of the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Moffat County" to temporarily prohibit the construction of dispensaries, growing operations and all other land uses associated with the dispensing of medical marijuana for commercial, non-profit or cooperative uses.

The moratorium does not apply to certified medical marijuana users for their own use.

Commissioner Tom Mathers made the motion to adopt the resolution.

"If he did sign (the bill), we still need some time to … figure out what he signed before we can put rules and regulations in anyways, so we still need a six month moratorium," he said.

Commissioner Tom Gray said he voted for the moratorium's extension because the county doesn't have a "baseline" to draft its own regulations.

"I want to emphasize this isn't just, 'Well, let's sweep it under the rug for six more months and deal with it later,'" he said after the meeting. "I think it is absolutely credible to say it doesn't make sense to formulate your own regulations until we know what degree the state is at."

The commission also discussed the possibility of placing the matter on the ballot for November's general election.

"If you do put it up for a county election, regardless of what rules come out, if the decision is 'No, we are not going to ban this, we want you to regulate,' then we can start looking at the regulations," Snow said. "But by then … almost six months have gone by and we are more likely to have something in place."

Commissioner Audrey Danner requested a meeting with Snow in mid-July to discuss the progress of state rules and regulations before the county reaches the July 23 deadline for proposing ballot questions.

Mathers said he would consider advocating for putting the issue on the ballot depending on the state's regulations and what feedback he hears from the public.

However, Mathers said he has not received any feedback from residents on either side of the issue.

"I guess there are some things we should just be able to sit down and make a decision (on) because we are elected officials by the public," he said after the meeting. "But sometimes, if you get to an issue, you almost have to put it out to a vote … to get more a feeling as to what the people really thought other than the people that you talk to on a daily basis, that are your supporters."

As for how the county would manage the medical marijuana industry, Danner said the county would soon investigate drafting its own regulations or adhering to state regulations.

"We are not going to keep extending it," she said referring to the moratorium.