Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Steamboat Springs A local entrepreneur's proposal to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Steamboat Springs sent tremors through city government Tuesday, but the City Council rejected a proposed emergency moratorium on such businesses.
Complaints of backaches were the running joke at Centennial Hall during a marathon meeting Tuesday night. At the end of the meeting, City Attorney Tony Lettunich asked council members whether they felt the need to enact a moratorium to allow more time to digest the possibility and provide an opportunity to create rules for such a business. The issue had raised concerns in the city's planning and police departments.
Steamboat resident Kevin Fisher, who is a medical marijuana user himself, has been in contact with city officials about opening a dispensary with his partner Ryan Fisher, who he is not related to. The issue represents a growing trend in the state, and Steamboat's contemplated response is similar to that in other mountain communities.
Kevin Fisher said he thinks a moratorium is unnecessary. He said he has been in contact with city officials because he wants to work cooperatively with them.
"We're not trying to cowboy this," he said.
Kevin Fisher also said he hopes to open a dispensary in a low-key location and conduct business by appointment only.
"We're not going to have a storefront with a big neon marijuana leaf in the window," he said.
In rejecting the proposed emergency moratorium, council members said they were unwilling to enact "alarmist" legislation at the late hour and with no public notice.
According to the state, there are about 60 dispensaries in Colorado that sell marijuana products to the growing number of Coloradans who have a medical marijuana license. Colorado's Amendment 20 made the medical use of marijuana legal, with restrictions and a doctor's recommendation, beginning in 2001. Although marijuana is still illegal federally, the Obama administration has decided to stop raids on operations that are compliant with their states laws.
The Associated Press reported last week that the number of people registered to use marijuana in Colorado jumped by 2,000 in the past month, bringing the state total to 9,000, and the average age of license holders has dropped from 42 to 24. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment expects the number of registered users to increase to 15,000 by the end of the year. Last week, the Colorado Board of Health rejected a proposed rule that would have restricted medical marijuana providers to five medical marijuana patients each.
All of these factors have amounted to a boon for the dispensary business. In addition to Front Range cities such as Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs, dispensaries have started to emerge on the Western Slope in towns such as Frisco, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. According to the Summit Daily News, "Breckenridge and Frisco have both set 90-day moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries while regulations are drafted; Dillon and Silverthorne officials are discussing the matter."
According to the AP, Breckenridge is considering rules that would restrict dispensary hours and regulate their proximity to schools.
- City Council stood by its staff and decided to require that $960,000 being paid by Steamboat 700 for water projects be paid in three equal, annual installments beginning 30 days after the proposed community of 2,000 homes is annexed. Steamboat 700 had argued for a payment plan consisting of an initial payment of $105,000 after annexation and three equal payments of $285,000. The first of those three payments would be due at the recording of the first final plat creating a building lot. The second would be due a year after that, and the third would be due two years later.
- Council members faced a barrage of public comment from angry Steamboat residents fighting to protect open space near their homes. Residents of West Acres Mobile Home Park showed up to protest the city's plan to build a new east-west thoroughfare on a designated greenbelt behind the park. For more on that issue, see Sunday's Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Residents also spoke out loudly against a conceptual design plan for Rita Valentine Park, an undeveloped parcel between Hilltop Parkway and Anglers Drive. The design plan initially called for facilities, a road and parking lots but was scaled down to include only dog parks and other low-intensity improvements. Residents at the meeting said they prefer the untouched open space, and council voted unanimously to table the design plan indefinitely.