Pot discussion packs Yampa Town Hall | SteamboatToday.com

Pot discussion packs Yampa Town Hall

South Routt residents turn out to voice marijuana opinions

Jack Weinstein

Yampa residents raise their hands in support of medical marijuana dispensaries in the town during a public meeting Wednesday night.

— The town of Yampa is divided on medical marijuana.

More than 30 people attended a special meeting of the Yampa Town Board on Wednesday night intended to engage residents on their opinion of the controversial treatment approved by Colorado voters a decade ago. Nearly half of those who attended the meeting spoke — some in favor of medical marijuana, some opposed. At times, the discussion among residents grew contentious.

"Whether we like it or not, medicinal or recreational, it's going to be here," said resident Dale Clements, a medical marijuana cardholder. "It could have benefits if the town regulates it."

Others disagreed.

"I think this started and has been perpetuated to get around the legal restrictions for marijuana," resident Bruce Sigler said. "My personal opinion is this is subterfuge to describe this as medical uses for marijuana."

A benefit mentioned by Clements and others was medical marijuana's ability to generate sales tax revenue for Yampa. A reason for Sigler's opposition, as well as that of others, was the lack of law enforcement in the community.

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Medical marijuana was added to Colorado's constitution after voters approved Amendment 20 in 2000. The amendment allows for marijuana use and possession for patients with certain conditions and a doctor's recommendation.

LMS Dispensary, Yampa's lone medical marijuana business, closed after owner J-Jay Johnson, citing high fees, didn't apply for a state license by the Aug. 1 deadline imposed by new state legislation.

Any other potential medical marijuana businesses won't open in Yampa until at least July 1, 2011, after House Bill 1284, the new legislation, became law. The legislation was created to regulate the business side of the medical marijuana industry.

As a result, town trustees said they have until next summer to figure out what to do. Their options include allowing medical marijuana businesses, banning them, or drafting a ballot initiative and letting voters decide.

Yampa let residents vote on the issue Wednesday, at least unofficially.

Town officials taped surveys on the front doors of each of Yampa's more than 200 homes. Of the 55 surveys returned, 33 opposed medical marijuana while 22 supported it. However, many of the surveys had multiple votes for each registered voter living in the homes.

After the meeting, Mayor Bruce Pitts said that based on the surveys and the people who spoke at the meeting, he thought the town's view on medical marijuana was split "dead even."

The Town Board didn't say what would happen next. Trustee Jeff Drust said nothing has been decided and trustees were just trying to digest what they heard. But Trustee Karen Tussey said it was important to get residents' opinions because Yampa is such a tight-knit community.

The trustees all said they were pleased by the turnout.

"I've been in Yampa 33 years," trustee Tom Yackey said. "This is the third time in my 33 years we've been able to fill Town Hall."

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