The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday unanimously enacted an emergency 90-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.
The moratorium will prevent such businesses from opening within city limits while an ordinance is created to regulate them. Two dispensaries, however, beat the moratorium and are operating in Steamboat.
Kevin Fisher and Ryan Fisher, no relation, have opened Rocky Mountain Remedies in the 2700 block of Downhill Plaza. Daryl Levin and Charles Magnuson have launched D and C Medical Marijuana and Therapeutic Massage in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue in office space on the second floor of the Old Town Pub building.
"It's not our intent to bring these businesses under the umbrella of this moratorium," City Attorney Tony Lettunich said.
Council members were told that the two operating dispensaries have communicated with the city and have agreed to operate under preliminary guidelines created by the Steamboat Springs Police Department. The city has received several other inquiries from people interested in opening dispensaries - including some from people who would like to operate out of their homes - and there is concern that future dispensary operators won't be as cooperative.
"The floodgates are open," City Council President Loui Antonucci said.
The ordinance likely will regulate dispensaries' hours, their proximity to schools and other areas where children congregate, their required security features and other items. Kevin Fisher presented documents to council including a list of 26 guidelines Rocky Mountain Remedies intends to follow and a patient release form. An ordinance is expected to be brought to City Council before the 90-day moratorium expires.
In approving the moratorium, Councilman Steve Ivancie said council was not expressing its opinion about medical marijuana one way or the other but simply giving itself some time to create appropriate land-use regulations governing the dispensaries.
There is little oversight of medical marijuana dispensaries at the state level. Similar moratoriums have been approved in other Western Slope communities such as Basalt, Frisco, Breckenridge and Silverthorne and reflect the young industry's fast-paced expansion from Front Range cities to the mountains. That expansion has been aided by several developments that have made dispensaries more tenable and less risky.
Colorado's Amendment 20 made the medical use of marijuana legal, with restrictions and a doctor's recommendation, beginning in 2001. Although marijuana still is illegal federally, the Obama Administration has decided to stop raids on operations that are compliant with their states laws. Last month, the budding industry received another boost from the Colorado Board of Health, which rejected a proposed rule that would have restricted medical marijuana providers to five medical marijuana patients each. The number of registered medical marijuana in the state stands at about 9,000 and is expected to increase to 15,000 by the end of the year, according to the state health department. From July 2008 to June 2009, the state issued registry cards to 1,792 males younger than 30.
In other action Tuesday, the Steamboat Springs City Council:
- Directed city staff to enter into a contract with New West Inns to operate the city-owned Iron Horse Inn.
- Scheduled a September meeting with the residents of the West Acres Mobile Home Park to discuss their concerns about the planned New Victory Highway that the city plans to build behind the park.
- Tabled its consideration of substantial changes to the city's affordable housing ordinance.
- Approved a pre-annexation agreement with the developers of 360 Village, which will pave the way for formal consideration of annexing the 110-acre project west of city limits that proposes about 750 homes.
- Gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would institute a $5 surcharge on city parking violations and a $20 surcharge on other violations of the municipal code. Councilman Scott Myller voted against the ordinance.
- Gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would require developers in certain base-area zone districts to have an approved final development plan before being issued a demolition permit.