Our View: Pot ban efforts should be citizen-led


Editorial Board, January through May 8, 2011

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Traci Day, community representative
  • Dean Vogelaar, community representative

Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Last week Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae stood up before the City Council and suggested an outright ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. He’s not alone in his belief that the proliferation of medical marijuana in our community is causing more harm than good. We know of a small contingent of local doctors, and possibly even a school official or two, whose voices may soon join the public call for a ban.

We’re not ready to support — or dismiss — a ban, but we also don’t believe it’s fair to ask the City Council to determine the future of medical marijuana sales within Steamboat’s city limits. On this issue, a citizen-led ballot initiative is the most appropriate path. After all, it was voters here and across the state who allowed the marijuana issue to progress to its current level.

In 2000, Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which made medical marijuana legal for people with certain medical conditions. The amendment passed with 54 percent of the vote statewide. The victory was even more convincing here in Routt County, where 65 percent of voters supported Amendment 20.

Perhaps residents feel differently about the issue 11 years later. Perhaps they don’t. It’s been only the past two years that medical marijuana centers, or dispensaries, have popped onto the scene, adding brick-and-mortar storefronts and an increasingly public presence to a legalization debate that has gone on at varying intensities in this country for decades.

But what seems to be playing the biggest role in the pushback from folks in this community and others — Colorado municipalities to ban medical marijuana centers in recent moths include Castle Rock, Grand Junction and Loveland — is the notion that Amendment 20 and the interpretations of its rather vague wording have created a system that allows any recreational marijuana smoker with the will a way to secure a medical marijuana license that allows him or her to possess and consume marijuana. To many, medical marijuana is less about getting the drug into the hands of cancer patients and others with debilitating conditions than it is a green light for twentysomethings with “chronic pain” to light up legally.

Of course, banning medical marijuana centers won’t prevent marijuana cardholders from legally possessing and growing their own pot, or from primary caregivers from growing and providing marijuana to a limited number of patients.

So where does Steamboat go from here? It’s our belief that if community members like Capt. Rae, Dr. Brian Harrington and others feel strongly that medical marijuana centers are wrong for our city, they should pursue a ballot referendum that asks the question of the entire community. That would be a better course of action than lobbying the City Council to pull the plug on them.


hereandthere 6 years ago

What about a serious discussion to ban alcohol dispenseries? Seriously, with the far more prevalent problems, both legal (Rae), and medical (Harriington), that alcohl presents, these two great thinkers got together and thought it was approriate to make another attack on mmj? No thought of discussing the far greater problem effecting our community that is alcohol? At all? The bigger question to me, how do people with so little maturity get to a position where they can become police captains and doctors?


mmjPatient22 6 years ago

Although it's been said before, it bears repeating that this state is the only state in the union that has pro-cannabis legislation as part of the constitution of our state.


MrTaiChi 6 years ago

This issue seems to be in the class of things that, if state law permists, should be subject to a local referendum. It also seems to be in the class of things that shouldn't. Viewed without passion, this is a land use issue, and like zoning, the only thing that makes land use controls constitutional is that the public reviews a master plan for a community, has input, and then the local government votes whether or not to impliment a master plan, which is supposed to be implimented objectively, so that someone who's intended use of the land, if permitted by the law, should be permitted, even in the face of angry mobs threatening the local governors with pitchforks and torches. This issue also goes to the heart of our theory of govenment. In many instances, it would be possible and desirable for citizens to directly vote on a public issue, but this is not the mechanism favored by our founding fathers. They chose representative democracy because they were afraid of the passions of the mob, reflected in part in the electoral college and the election of senators by state legislatures until the Constitution was amended to allow direct election. The majority can be wrong, and there are historic examples of that. Ancient Greece had a philosophical argument between democratic cities and oligarchical cities eventually resulting in the Peloponnesian Wars. Athens's generals and leaders were forced by its citizens into an expedition to defeat Syracuse and establish hegemony over Sicily. Their empire demanded ever greater contributions from subservient cities to support the war against Sparta and its allies. The expedition went badly, so the generals sought to withdraw, but the citizens of Athens doubled down and voted to send more ships and soldiers resulting in total destruction of the fleets and twenty thousand troops, and eventual defeat of Athens years later. Direct democracy is great in theory, but unstable and potentially counterproductive in practice.

Looking at stoned drug addicts on the sidewalks and doorways of Amsterdam, it is a fair question whether they should be deciding the direction of their city, or whether representative democracy isn't a safer direction. Let the people vote on this issue, and let them vote again when the consequences, good or il, are clearer.


Scott Wedel 6 years ago

Hereandthere, Well, if someone starts the ballot process to ban mmj dispensaries then maybe it would be a smart political strategy for mmj proponents to collect the signatures to place an alcohol ban also on the ballot.

That would tend to increase turnout of people wanting to protect alcohol businesses and those voters would presumably be more likely to keep mmj dispensaries.

It would make sense for all mmj dispensaries to have voter registration forms and encourage their customers to be registered to vote.


pitpoodle 6 years ago

I do not believe there is any way voters will do away with mmj dispensaries. Does everyone realize just how prevalent smoking is in this valley? It's pretty amazing really. It would be an easy get out your vote campaign.


freerider 6 years ago


Legal drugs kill over 150 thousand people a year and these freaks and hypocrites have the nerve to whine about pot

MARIJUANA DEATHS = ZERO it's impossible to overdose on it

Shame on you RAE . you know very well that text messaging and alcohol cause way more problems than pot when it comes to traffic safety

So why aren't you on your soapbox trying to ban cell phones ?? or pharmaceuticals ??

maybe because you don't really have an opinion...you just do what your told like a good little brown shirt that pisses on the constitution and the bill of rights

Joel Rae and the local doctors don't have a freaking clue about marijuana

The medical community is a goddamn joke on this issue when it's out there prescribing poison in the form of lethal prescription meds

Over thirty thousand people died last year alone from aspirin ..they bleed to death from inside....look it up

Local doctors opinions on this amount to a pile of what the cows and horses deposit in this valley

And the sheep ....baaaaaa baaaaaa baaaaaa

Brent you are such a wimp on this issue....geeez have the balls to take a position one way or the other...


Kristopher Hammond 6 years ago

It is troubling that the Pilot is advocating a process where a perfectly legal business can be voted off the island just because it is controversial. While we are at it, should we vote to ban other controversial businesses? Planned Parenthood? Businesses that sell books and magazines (and newspapers) we find offensive? Alcohol? Houses of worship we don't like? Isn't that what the Constitution protects? Protection from mob rule (thanks MTC)? Let's prevent terrorism by voting to ban Mosques!

MMJ is on the money regarding the constitution. "Dry" counties aren't infringing on a constitutional right to buy alcohol. No matter how overwhelming the vote, the constitutional right to possess grow and obtain mmj can not be banned. Banning dispensaries would only ban the regulated, scrutinized, and TAXED part of the mmj business.

As the police say: you bust a rapist, the streets are safer. You bust a drug dealer, you create a business opportunity. YVB is right--prohibition has never worked and it never will, especially when the the thing you're trying to prohibit is constitutionally protected.

The banners are really just trying to abolish a constitutional right they don't like. How ironic that this parade is being led by a cop.


mmjPatient22 6 years ago

No one can deny that this is an issue about which a great many people feel VERY strongly, including myself(as if that ever needed to be stated). Currently, 40% of the "most discussed" articles on this site are strictly about cannabis and/or its current legal status. At the tail end of those articles, well over 150 comments have been logged by a lot of people(many by yours truly) and the battle(debate) wages forward. Some of the articles slant one way, while others diametrically opposed but the trend of discussion and debate(albeit fairly weak at times) continues at a steady pace. I remember in the early days of my commentary on this site when a comment board for a cannabis article could go over 500 comments( and yes, maybe a third of those were mine). But throughout the tenure of my stay at this site, I have still YET to be presented with a valid, well supported argument for the continued waste and endless spending that engulfs the war on drugs, more specifically a war against cannabis. And I'll keep waiting for that argument as long as it takes. Until everyone gives up on this futile war against cannabis, I'll never stop.


mmjPatient22 6 years ago

Great news from the front in Montana!!! Looks like Gov. Schweitzer has vetoed the repeal of mmj legislation, which all of the nae-sayers in that state were trying to overturn. Looks like taking away peoples right to cannabis....again....is unconstitutional!



bill schurman 6 years ago

Time for me to weigh in (if anyone cares): In over 30 years as being a criminal defense lawyer I can say that my case load would easily have been cut in half if alcohol were banned. The social consequences of alcohol are enormous not to mention the health issues. Get real folks. On the other hand, I NEVER represented anyone (and I had thousands of clients) who was stoned who committed murder, assault, burglary or any other serious crime. The liquor industry and the right wing republicans oppose marijuana out of absolute ignorance or to protect their economic interests.


Scott Wedel 6 years ago

Yep, no one denies any more about the consequences of alcohol because those are too severe. The argument defending alcohol being legal is that prohibition did not stop consumption and created huge sources of revenues for criminals, and that most people can use it responsibly.

If anyone would apply the same criteria to MJ then it would have been legal long ago.

MMJ opponents should pick their argument and be willing to defend it.

Are dispensaries bad because they introduce people to MJ? If that is true then there should be a big impact from all of these new marijuana "addicts". Shouldn't there be a massive increase in thefts from people desperate to fund their addictions. Shouldn't there be a massive increase in the number of hospitalizations from MJ abuse? Counting DUID's from people too proud of MMJ to not know to hide it when pulled over does not count unless there is also a big increase in accidents from DUIDs.

Are dispensaries bad because it allows mj users to get legal mj? That for whatever reason letting pot users to get it legally instead of illegally is real bad?

Or is it the ultimate NIMBY issue that it would be okay as long as people didn't know where it was being grown or sold? I note that in SB there is minimal controversy over grow facilities because they are a commercial usage by right and there are no planning board meetings over their locations. That the only issues are with the visible dispensaries. Maybe we need to incorporate a town of Honah Lee and pretend all dispensaries and grow operations are located there.


mmjPatient22 6 years ago

Mr. Schurman-

Your input is greatly appreciated. Not to detract from your story, but yours is just one of thousands that validate our stance that the war against cannabis is nothing more than a exercise in complete futility and wasteful spending. You couldn't have hit the nail any more squarely on the head when you said that the only thing that they're doing is trying to protect their economic interests. How shameful is it that they choose that over the truth, especially in times like these?


mmjPatient22 6 years ago

Also, Mr. Schurman-

I'm curious what your thoughts are on the piece of legislation that's coming up in California right now known as Senate Bill 129. Basically, it provides legal protection for medical marijuana patients and their employment status, in relation to them being discriminated against on those grounds alone. Personally, I know of countless voters that would raise their hand for something like that on our ballot. http://www.aroundthecapitol.com/Bills/SB_129/20112012/


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