Consequences of proposed Steamboat marijuana ban unclear | SteamboatToday.com
Jack Weinstein

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Consequences of proposed Steamboat marijuana ban unclear

Ballot question

Shall the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, ban the cultivation, manufacture and sale of medical marijuana, including the operations of medical marijuana centers, optional premises 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?

Yes or No.

— If Steamboat Springs residents ban medical marijuana businesses in November, it doesn't mean medical marijuana will go away.

Steamboat Springs City Council member Jon Quinn asked at Tuesday's meeting whether medical marijuana patients could get together and grow in a large space if residents banned dispensaries, grow operations and infused-product makers.

At the meeting, City Council members approved a ballot question that would let residents decide whether to continue allowing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, grow operations and infused-product makers in Steamboat.

It wouldn't prohibit cultivation and use by patients and caregivers in compliance with Amendment 20. The voter-approved state constitutional provision permits medical marijuana use for people with certain medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation.

"Do we end up with the same thing in just an unregulated and untaxed format?" Quinn asked, referring to what might happen if residents approve a ban.

City staff attorney Dan Foote said that scenario was possible. He also said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment could waive the five-patient-per-caregiver rule for people without easy access to medical marijuana, such as a dispensary.

An alternative

Steamboat lawyer Adam Mayo has lectured statewide about what he calls the patient collective model. He said Amendment 20 allows patients to grow medical marijuana in the same space and gives them the right to assist one another.

Mayo said it makes more sense for patients to grow together instead of trying to raise as many as six plants in their homes, especially if they are prohibited from doing so by their landlords, can't afford expensive equipment or don't want to grow around their children.

Mayo added that patients would not be required to conform with House Bill 1284, legislation created to regulate the state's medical marijuana industry.

"I think that's the problem with banning the stores. The stores are heavily regulated and taxed," he said. "If you ban and force everybody into these collectives, the state loses all control."

Mayo said the only restrictions he envisioned were local land-use and zoning regulations. But he said existing Steamboat dispensaries already conform to those rules and could use their grow operations for patient collectives. Mayo said it would operate like a landlord-tenant arrangement.

No plans yet

Kevin Fisher, co-owner of Steamboat dispensary Rocky Mountain Remedies, said the business' goal was to provide medication to patients who need it. Because the patient collective model exists in a legal gray area, Fisher couldn't say whether Rocky Mountain Remedies would serve as a consultant and offer grow locations for patients if voters passed a ban on businesses.

"It's something we'd consider, but we'd have to see the legal ramifications," he said.

Laura Kriho, of the Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute, said she asked Mayo to give a presentation about the patient collective model in October on the Front Range after hearing about it. Kriho said every lawyer who she's had review the model said Amendment 20 allows it, but it's still an untested concept.

"It's a whole new area," she said. "Nobody's written about these patient collectives much at all."

Kriho added that if Steamboat residents did approve a ban, patients still would find a way to get medical marijuana.

Getting the message out

Colorado voters approved Amendment 20, which was supported by a majority of Routt County residents, in 2000. But it took nearly a decade for the industry to take off. Steamboat's three dispensaries opened in 2009 and have been regulated by ordinance the city approved in January 2010.

The suggestion to ban medical marijuana businesses came at a City Council meeting April 5. Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae and Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates, asked City Council members to consider a ban.

Since then, Steamboat residents Lisa Watts and Dr. Kelly Victory have created a group opposing local medical marijuana businesses.

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Quinn said he just wanted people to understand what could happen if residents ban medical marijuana dispensaries, grow operations and infused-product makers.

"My overwhelming concern is we're not putting on the ballot what people think," he said. "It's doing away with the taxation and regulation. That has me concerned."

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com