Our View: Pot ban efforts should be citizen-led
April 13, 2011
Steamboat Springs — 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.
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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.