Election Guide: Voters to decide fate of medical marijuana businesses

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Election 2011

Click here for complete coverage of this year's races and issues.

Routt County Referendum 1A

Pursuant to the authority granted by C.R.S Section 12-43.3-106, shall all medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation operations and/or medical marijuana-infused products manufacturers’ licenses, as those terms are defined in C.R.S. Section 12-3-104, not previously prohibited by Routt County Resolution No. 2011-33 be prohibited within the unincorporated boundaries of Routt County, Colorado, effective January, 1, 2012?

Yampa Referendum 2A

Shall the operation and licensing of medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation operations, and medical marijuana-infused products manufacturers be prohibited in the town of Yampa, Colorado in accordance with the requirements of Colorado law?

Steamboat Referendum 2C

Shall the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, ban, effective January 1, 2012, the cultivation, manufacture and sale of medical marijuana, including the operations of medical marijuana centers, optional premise cultivation operations, and the manufacture of medical marijuana-infused products, unless such person does so as a patient or primary caregiver as authorized by Art. XVIII, Sec. 14 of the Colorado Constitution and pursuant to regulations enacted by the City; further authorizing the City to codify this ban in the Municipal Code?

Oak Creek Referendum 2E

Shall the proposed initiated ordinance prohibiting any person from operating medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation operations, and medical marijuana-infused products manufacturers’ licenses in the town of Oak Creek, Colorado in accordance with the requirements of the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code; and recognizing and affirming the ability of patients and primary caregivers to otherwise be afforded the protection of Article XVIII, Section 14 of the Colorado Constitution and Colorado law be adopted?

— Every Routt County registered voter will have the chance to weigh in on the future of medical marijuana businesses.

All voters who live in Routt County will consider at least one ballot question to determine whether to ban or continue to allow the operation of local medical marijuana dispensaries, grow operations and infused-product makers. And residents in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Yampa will consider additional questions that will determine the fate of medical marijuana businesses in their communities.

Voters who approve the county-specific Referendum 1A would be banning the operation of Aloha’s in Milner, which is located in unincorporated Routt County.

None of the medical marijuana-related questions would prohibit the use of the treatment method for those who have a doctor’s recommendation. Those people still could grow their medical marijuana or obtain it from a licensed caregiver, as permitted by Amendment 20 to the Colorado Constitution that voters approved in 2000. The amendment was approved by 65 percent of Routt County voters.

Since the industry exploded in 2009, five medical marijuana dispensaries have opened in the county, including three in Steamboat and one each in Milner and Oak Creek.

An opposition group led by residents Dr. Kelly Victory and Lisa Watts has met with community groups to discuss what members think are the negative effects of medical marijuana in the community.

“We do not believe that this booming industry reflects well on our community nor do we believe that it will help to attract the types of businesses, second-home owners and tourism Steamboat needs,” Victory wrote in an email.

Victory thinks voters approved medical marijuana for patients with a defined set of medical conditions who could benefit from access to the drug for personal use. She cited the fact marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.

Victory said that she thinks there are people with a legitimate medical need for marijuana but that the vast majority are recreational users who, along with dispensary owners, are taking advantage of a lack of oversight and enforcement.

Kevin Fisher, co-owner of the Rocky Mountain Remedies medical marijuana center in Steamboat Springs, disagreed. He said that those who are attempting to abuse the system are the minority and that most registered medical marijuana cardholders are those who truly benefit from the drug’s medicinal values.

Fisher and other supporters say medical marijuana is one of the most regulated industries in the state. If the businesses are banned, they argue that the criminal black market once again will take over.

“If the community prefers that it’s in one place and regulated, then don’t ban,” he said. “Or it can be all over the place and not regulated.”

Julie Postlethwait, a spokeswoman with the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the state’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, said that investigators performed unannounced compliance checks at the dispensaries in Steamboat and the surrounding areas and that all passed the routine inspections.

A ban would cost 30 full- and part-time Rocky Mountain Remedies employees their jobs and the community would lose a business that has $200,000 in monthly expenditures, Fisher said. And that’s just his business.

Routt County’s top law enforcement officers — Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief JD Hays, Police Capt. Joel Rae, Sheriff Garrett Wiggins and Undersherriff Ray Birch — have publicly supported a ban of medical marijuana businesses.

After the Nov. 1 election, every incorporated Routt County community will have considered the issue. The Hayden Town Council previously approved an ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana businesses.

Election Guide 2011

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