Vail Buddy Sims doesn't want pot shops in Colorado's Vail Valley.
"I have no objection to patients that get doctors' permits and need medical marijuana for chronic pain," the 64-year-old Edwards resident said. "My concern is that I feel these marijuana stores are going to draw off Interstate 70 types of people that are buying marijuana that we don't want here and the crime will follow."
Sims has been trying to mobilize people to lobby for a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries at Tuesday's county commissioners' meeting. Commissioners on Tuesday plan to vote on temporary rules that limit where dispensaries can operate. The 30-day rule would forbid dispensaries from opening within 200 feet of schools, and would go into effect immediately after the vote. Sims thinks the county should take it a step further.
"I'd like to see some concerned citizens show up and voice their opinions to the county commissioners to make this a permanent ban," he said.
Black market fears
Sims fears a black market for the medical marijuana could sprout up in town.
"I don't want to see the black market trade started here, with people buying this marijuana with medical cards and then giving it to other people who are splitting it and cutting it and selling it," he said. "I don't want to see it get into the high school or elementary system anymore then it probably already is now."
With only 69 people in Eagle County registered for legal cards for medical marijuana, Sims argues dispensaries will need to attract customers from elsewhere. As a result, the dispensaries could draw unsavory people cruising along I-70, he argues.
"Why would you have three stores for 69 customers?" he said. "The customers have to be coming off of Interstate 70 or someplace else in Colorado. They're not all not living here."
The game plan
With three medical marijuana dispensaries open or poised to open in Eagle County, officials want to buy some time while they figure out what to do about the shops.
"I want to make sure we have a game plan in place before people are spending funds to set up dispensaries," County Commissioner Sara Fisher said.
The 30-day regulations facing commissioners would confine dispensaries to commercial and industrial zoning districts in the county. It also forbids medical marijuana sales within 200 feet of schools, parks, child care facilities, churches, drug rehabilitation facilities or community centers.
It would not apply to dispensaries that have already opened in Edwards and Eagle-Vail.
"Based on this they would not have to shut down," county Attorney Bryan Treu said.
The 30-day rules would not apply to proposed dispensaries where owners have spent significant money on supplies or building renovations in preparation for opening, Treu said. Simply signing a lease does not exempt a proposed dispensary from the rules though, he said.
Existing dispensaries may be subject to any future, permanent regulations the county imposes on medical marijuana shops, Treu said. Exactly what rules the county will impose on dispensaries remains to be seen.
"We've already heard feedback from folks on both sides of the issue," Fisher said. "Because it's not currently specifically addressed in Colorado statute, and it's illegal from a federal standpoint still, we want to have the research done and the dialogue to be had as a community before making a determination on what, how or if we will set any kind of long-term regulations."