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Group forms to oppose medical marijuana business in Routt County

Tuesday meeting intended as strategic session for local action

— A Tuesday meeting could be the first step toward formalized public support for a ban on medical marijuana businesses, an issue that likely will be on the ballot for Steamboat Springs voters in November and that county officials plan to discuss in June.

A leader of the local medical marijuana industry, conversely, said work to formalize opposition to a ban will accelerate next month.

The activity indicates that wheels are slowly starting to turn in anticipation of upcoming campaigns on both sides of the issue that recently filled Centennial Hall.

Steamboat resident Lisa Watts, an organizer of next week's meeting, said the event at Bud Werner Memorial Library is open to anyone with concerns about the commercial industry.

"I'd like to give the community an avenue to positively address their concerns about the impact that medical marijuana is having on the community," Watts said. "We'd like to offer this organization as a unifying point for the community to come together, share information and address issues that Amendment 20 has ended up placing in small towns, municipalities and counties across the state."

Colorado voters' passage of Amendment 20 in 2000 legalized medical marijuana patients and dispersal of the drug by caregivers. But the industry's booming growth into the dispensary and medical marijuana center model has led to regulatory challenges at the state and local levels, along with public votes on whether to allow the industry in municipalities across Colorado.

The Steamboat Springs City Council voted, 4-3, on May 17 against a ban on the industry in Steamboat. But City Council unanimously supported placing the issue before city voters and could address finalized language of a ballot issue next month, in preparation for a November election.

Watts said she has not registered a political action committee with the Colorado Secretary of State's office and is unsure whether Tuesday's meeting will evolve into a formal committee for a fall campaign.

She did say, though, that one topic Tuesday will be how to approach a public meeting of the Board of Routt County Commissioners at 5 p.m. June 21 in the Routt County Courthouse. That meeting will address the medical marijuana industry in unincorporated areas of the county.

"We do plan on pursuing action on a county level to address these issues and ask the community of Steamboat Springs what kind of community we want to be," Watts said. "This Tuesday meeting is (about) exactly that — how we want to present this to commissioners."

Commissioner Doug Monger said the June 21 meeting will include discussions about two resolutions: one that would extend a ban on additional medical marijuana businesses in the county to July 1, 2012; and a second that would ban any future businesses.

"Neither of those would put Aloha's out of business at this point in time," Monger said, referring to a medical marijuana dispensary in Milner.

A press release emailed to media late Monday announced next week's pro-ban meeting as a function of Routt County Citizens Against Medical Marijuana. But Watts — who was quoted in the press release sent by Phyllis Coletta — said Tuesday that the group's name, in her opinion, hasn't been finalized and should be toned down.

"We'd prefer that it's just a medical marijuana community impact coalition," she said.

A website cited in the press release, http://www.routtcountyciti

zens.wordpress.com, keeps the initial language, though, while announcing next week's meeting.

"Please come prepared to help with ideas and efforts to rid Routt County of pot dispensaries," the website states. "If you want to argue about pot, stay home. This meeting is for Routt County Citizens Against Medical Marijuana."

Kevin Fisher, co-owner of the Steamboat medical marijuana dispensary Rocky Mountain Remedies, said he's waiting until after City Council's June 7 action on ballot language to formalize a campaign opposing a ban.

"We're obviously putting the groundwork together for our side's PAC," Fisher said. "We're not going to put the name out there until after June 7."

He said that all three of Steamboat's medical marijuana dispensaries would be involved in a campaign but that he and Rocky Mountain Remedies likely would be the leader, financially and logistically.

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