Steamboat Springs Capt. Joel Rae, of the Steamboat Springs Police Department, asked city officials Tuesday night to consider an outright ban of medical marijuana sellers in Steamboat Springs.
Rae cited statistics that show dramatic increases in statewide cases for driving under the influence of drugs since 2009, when the medical marijuana industry began to boom in Colorado. Rae also said Steamboat police are encountering more marijuana in arrests and on city streets. He said the marijuana often is held by people without cards permitting medical use but often is in containers indicating the marijuana came from a local dispensary.
“There is a huge influx of DUID cases happening all over the state of Colorado,” Rae told the Steamboat Springs City Council in Centennial Hall. “Locally, there’s a 64 percent increase in DUID cases from 2009 to 2010.”
City Council conducted a first reading Tuesday night of revised medical marijuana regulations. Many of the changes align the city’s regulations with state legislation adopted last year. City Council voted, 6-1, to not implement restrictions on print advertising for the industry, which the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission suggested last month. Councilwoman Meg Bentley voted in support of ad restrictions.
City Council also expressed support for staff recommendations that infused product manufacturing and cultivation operations be permitted to operate in homes if they meet home occupation criteria, such as building and fire code compliance.
City Council voted against, however, adding a fourth license — beyond the city’s current cap of three dispensary licenses — to accommodate home-based infused product manufacturer Lisa Kamieniecki, who wants to continue her business independent of the city’s three licensed medical marijuana centers.
Kamieniecki told City Council she has a state license for the business. City staff attorney Dan Foote said Kamieniecki requested a city license last year and was denied because of the city’s cap.
Council’s discussions about the revisions continued past 11 p.m. Tuesday. Approval at a second public reading is needed for the revisions to become city law, but the ordinance’s future is uncertain — City Council members said they were surprised by Tuesday’s unexpected calls for a ban of local dispensaries.
Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates, also made that request, saying the industry is based on false pretenses and debatable medical value.
“I recommend that you ban these dispensaries,” Harrington said. “Don’t let Steamboat be an experimental ground for something that is not figured out and is a danger to our community.”
When City Council President Cari Hermacinski asked Rae if he was asking for no more additional licenses, or for an outright ban, Rae answered simply.
“I’m saying ban,” he said.
Council members Scott Myller and Meg Bentley said they could support a ban, while Hermacinski and Councilman Jon Quinn said they opposed the idea. Council members Kenny Reisman, Walter Magill and Bart Kounovsky said they weren’t expecting the question and need more information.
A majority of City Council, though, supported asking city staff to prepare information on how a ban could proceed, potential impacts and numerous legal questions. Foote said he could present that information at a future meeting, possibly May 3.
Medical marijuana center representatives including Kevin Fisher, of Rocky Mountain Remedies; Chris Ward, of Aloha’s in Milner; and JJ Southard, of Natural Choice, spoke Tuesday, stating their businesses follow applicable laws, employ local workers — Fisher said he employs 40 people — and serve patients in dire need of medication.
“I have people coming in who are taking chemotherapy with tumors rising out of their skin,” Southard said. “There are doctors in town who support this, and they will be here for the second reading.”