People raise their hands to show their support for medical marijuana dispensaries in Steamboat Springs during Tuesday night’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. Council members voted, 4-3, against a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and unanimously voted to send the question to voters in November.

Photo by Matt Stensland

People raise their hands to show their support for medical marijuana dispensaries in Steamboat Springs during Tuesday night’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting. Council members voted, 4-3, against a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and unanimously voted to send the question to voters in November.

City Council rejects ban on medical marijuana centers in 4-3 decision

Members unanimously support sending issue to voters in November

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— Steamboat Springs residents will vote in November on whether to ban medical marijuana businesses in the city.

Steamboat Springs City Council decided not to enact a ban themselves Tuesday night in Centennial Hall, after nearly two hours of passionate public comment from a standing-room-only crowd that spilled into the hallway.

City Council voted, 4-3, against a ban, meaning that possibility won’t return for final approval June 7. Councilwoman Meg Bentley supported a ban, along with Walter Magill and Scott Myller. City Council members Kenny Reisman, Jon Quinn, Cari Hermacinski and Bart Kounovsky voted against a ban.

City Council unanimously supported a ballot issue in November, though, deciding to ask Steamboat voters whether to ban medical marijuana centers in the city. The ballot question will be up for final approval, in the form of a resolution to finalize its language, June 7.

City Council also will discuss June 7 whether to allocate sales tax revenues from the medical marijuana industry to teen programs and youth education efforts. Also on the table that night will be whether to ask voters in November to approve an additional 5 percent sales tax on the industry for those causes.

Finally, June 7 also will include a second reading of Steamboat’s regulatory ordinance for the medical marijuana industry. City Council tabled that reading Tuesday night.

The emotional public discussion about a ban drew many spontaneous bursts of applause, protesting outbursts and occasional laughter — jeering and genuine — from the crowd.

Parents warned about effects on children, particularly from excessive or misleading advertising in local media; patients cited personal benefits from medical marijuana; doctors disputed the drug’s effectiveness and raised questions about its harms; youth advocates cited increasing marijuana usage statistics; and medical marijuana center stakeholders talked about state legality, freedom of choice and local economic benefits from licensed businesses.

“I believe that this ban will result in the greatest good for the greatest number,” said Steamboat Springs High School biology teacher Cindy Gay, who talked about the drug’s neurological impacts and added that she was speaking as a parent, educator and community member.

“A ban does not prohibit those who truly benefit from obtaining the drug,” she said.

Steamboat resident Terry Pavick, a two-time cancer survivor and father of two children, said the drug has had very positive effects on his life.

Pavick said medical marijuana works better for him than over-the-counter painkillers that “like to eat up your liver, like alcohol.” He said he was Colorado’s 35th medical marijuana patient after legalization of the industry.

“I was a patient when there was no dispensary,” Pavick said. “It allows me to function.”

After it all, Bentley moved to ban the commercial industry and said the city “should take a step back” given the uncertainty of state and federal law and the industry’s effects on local youths.

“I think it’s mostly the kids and the families in the city of Steamboat Springs that are taking the brunt of all of it,” she said about controversy surrounding the industry. “What I am not wanting to do is make the kids get … negatively affected by all the confusion in their adults’ world. So that is why I asked to ban (centers) tonight.”

Myller quickly seconded Bentley’s motion, and it initially appeared that the guillotine could be falling for medical marijuana centers in Steamboat.

But several council members then voiced their disagreement with a ban.

Councilman Kenny Reisman questioned what a ban would achieve — likely, he said, greater business at medical marijuana centers just outside of Steamboat, along with grow operations “next door to your house” — and said he didn’t think a ban on centers would ultimately remove marijuana use from the city.

“I don’t believe in the prohibition model, I believe in the education model,” Reisman said.

Quinn spoke about America’s massive pharmaceutical industries, seen daily in prolific television ads touting all kinds of medicines for all kinds of ailments.

“We are a country that treats Big Macs with Lipitor, and the only one who loses is the patient,” he said, before paraphrasing a quote he attributed to Texas congressman and Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul.

“The day we decide the government can make our medical decisions for us is the day we decide that our bodies belong to the government,” Quinn said.

He noted that Routt County is home to more than 1,000 medical marijuana cardholders, who believe the drug helps them.

“It’s not my job to place a judgment on their belief,” Quinn said.

Myller countered that the medical marijuana industry has grown far beyond what Colorado voters may have intended with the passage of Amendment 20 in 2000, legalizing medical marijuana patients and dispersal of the drug by caregivers.

“This is a big increase in recreational use and that wasn’t what we voted for,” Myller said.

Magill said the industry’s prominent visibility has worsened problems.

“It’s the poking in the face by what (Milner medical marijuana dispensary) Aloha’s has done; it’s the poking in the face by what the Steamboat Pilot (& Today) has done,” Magill said, referring to advertising and news stories, respectively.

Kate Marshall, county coordinator for the youth education and substance abuse prevention group Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, had mixed reactions after the rejection of a ban.

“I think tonight’s discussion was healthy and brought up a lot of great points,” she said. “I am pleased that it will move to the voters.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

1999 3 years, 4 months ago

vote to ban alchohol dispensaries for the same reasons please.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

Well, someone could start a petition to put whatever on the ballot, but it looks like every council member that voted to ban along with Quinn and Kounovsky will be on the November ballot.

So which side wins is also likely to control the city council. Well, unless candidates pull a Hermacinski and find a way to claim to be personally be on one side while politically be on the other side.

With 1,000 mmj cardholders and it normally taking about 1,800 votes to win an election, there is no way mmj should lose. I'm guessing Kevin Fisher is smarter on to run a campaign than SB 700 and will not spend most of his money on outside consultants.

I think it would make less sense to make an attempt to ban alcohol dispensaries and more sense to allocate sales tax revenues from alcohol sales on treatment and education programs.

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JustSomeJoe 3 years, 4 months ago

“This is a big increase in recreational use and that wasn’t what we voted for,” Myller said.

How did you measure that increase Scott? I'd love to see the methodology backing that statement.

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sparkle 3 years, 4 months ago

Tit for tat with alcohol, or even more restrictions on booze abuse: the killer, home wrecker, accident causer, physical DEBILITATOR, anger accelerator, etc. etc. etc.

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daviekrockett 3 years, 4 months ago

Kate Marshall, county coordinator for the youth education and substance abuse prevention group Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, had mixed reactions after the rejection of a ban.

“I think tonight’s discussion was healthy and brought up a lot of great points,” she said. “I am pleased that it will move to the voters.”

I'm with you, Kate, let the voters decide.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

JustSomeJoe, Myller's methodology is something like: 1) There has been a huge increase in sales of legal mmj 2) Some mmj patients use it recreationally as well 3) Thus, there has been a huge increase in recreational usage.

People like Mr Myller are so honest that they cannot recognize that locals might have been using mj illegally prior to getting mmj licenses.

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1999 3 years, 4 months ago

““I think it’s mostly the kids and the families in the city of Steamboat Springs that are taking the brunt of all of it,” she said about controversy surrounding the industry. “What I am not wanting to do is make the kids get … negatively affected by all the confusion in their adults’ world. So that is why I asked to ban (centers) tonight.”

whats so confusing for kids and families?

heres what you might say to your kids.....

"It's illegal to consume MJ,alchohol and cigs until a certain age"

what is confusing Meg?

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SMRFF 3 years, 4 months ago

Gah! People are just guessing in order to form their opinions. Opponents still have not been able to provide any substantial hard evidence to support their claims. So very frustrating.

“I think it’s mostly the kids and the families in the city of Steamboat Springs that are taking the brunt of all of it.”

You "think"? So, does that make it true? Well, Meg, I THINK you have no idea why you think what you think. Thus, I move for you to be banned from city council.

Wow. That was actually a lot easier than educating myself on why Meg actually thinks the way she does. Who needs FACTS!

See what I did there?

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hereandthere 3 years, 4 months ago

When all is said and done, the council decision was the correct one.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

Ryan, How about donating some of your proceeds for PARENTING CLASSES. So all these parents that are so challenged to explain mmj to their kids can get some needed help.

And apparently, mmj dispensaries have been a tremendous help solving other teenage substance abuse issues because there is no longer any coverage of instances of the previous terrible problem of kids hosting drinking parties or any other underage drinking incidents .

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

Well, if this is the correct decision then why not put the noise ordinance to the ballot?

Previously, such as for SB 700, the City has made those opposed to a City Council decision to go out and get signatures on a petition. SB 700 passed City Council by 4-3 vote, but they did not unanimously, or at all, decide to put it on the ballot until the opponents presented petitions with 1,334 signatures to the city forcing a ballot.

So why not make the opponents go out and get signatures?

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bill schurman 3 years, 4 months ago

Damn, here I was planning to move out of River City and now I have to stay until November. What a gutless council. They vote not to ban, BUT NO, let's have a vote (and waste the city's $$ to pay for the election). Why would the former council refuse to have a public vote on Triple Crown ??? Ah, deference to the Chamber ?? Lets vote on banning the real scourge... ALCOHOL. Do the do-gooders really think that MJ will be gone from Steamboat?? GET REAL. Half the country smokes dope. It is America's number ONE cash crop. Ah, the pot heads (?) vs. the right-wing Republicans & liquor industry. Of course the vote will FAIL to ban dispensaries. Just like 700 and some of the other hair-brained issues that we have voted down. Finally, if you have never lit up you should not have the right to vote as your vote to ban is based on nothing more than ignorance. Anyone out there agree ??

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 4 months ago

Bill, The whole point of a democracy is that the ignorant get to vote because otherwise it ceases to be a democracy.

I think instead of merely making this a vote to not be banned this year and threatened by a similar ballot initiative or city council hearing every year or two, that maybe the mmj crowd could amend the city charter or such that might take winning 66% of the votes, but would make it very hard for any future city council or initiative to ban mmj dispensaries.

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freerider 3 years, 4 months ago

Ron Paul is right the Government wants too much control !!

It's none of there damn business , this is about freedom and it's worth fighting for

If you are anti-marijuana then you are anti-American and you support a racist piece of crap legislation written by a white racist in 1937

man makes alcohol and pills God makes marijuana ....who you gonna trust

Bill I'm with you...this council is gutless

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TWill 3 years, 4 months ago

You're doing it again freerider...

Wells said, Bill.

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 4 months ago

I don't see the need for representative government anymore. Let's all vote on the next school super too. At issue in the next election, should be to ask the candidates why they are running, if the voters are going to make all the decisions.

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JJ Southard 3 years, 4 months ago

And Fred pokes his head outta the mud for another senseless comment. ~sigh~

What a fantastic comment section. Only one mere nay-sayer (and, of course, Fred).

Where's all the weed hate?

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Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree with Bill. Proof of THC in the blood should be required before voting on MMJ measures. A simple UA or a 4 finger lid should suffice, along with photo ID. Furthermore, only property owners should be allowed to vote on property taxes, and only women should be allowed to vote on abortion issues.

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Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 4 months ago

Slow business day. Perpetual Winter into Spring into Winter again. So, just to be completely off-topic: South Park Cartman's length and girth (Season 15 episode 4) Available online everywhere for the cable-averse. It's been a while since I laughed so hard. Partoke and enjoy.

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pitpoodle 3 years, 4 months ago

"I don't see the need for representative government anymore." What representative government? This council represents us only on a case by case basis. The case depends on whether they want to promote building and annexation at any and every cost.

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