Steamboat Springs dispensary owners divided about proposed marijuana statute |

Steamboat Springs dispensary owners divided about proposed marijuana statute

Jack Weinstein

Brent Mundy manages Aloha's medical marijuana dispensary in Milner. Aloha's is looking into whether it can add more locations, including one in Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell

— New medical marijuana legislation introduced this month by state lawmakers has positives and negatives, local dispensary owners said.

House Bill 1043 would prohibit only those who have been convicted of a felony drug offense in the past five years from being issued a business license, instead of anyone who has ever been convicted of a drug felony. It also imposes two-year residency requirements only on owners, not all employees. Those are two positive changes, owners said.

The bill also would require that a primary caregiver, a person who provides medical marijuana for a limited number of patients, must register the grow location and all patient identification numbers — a negative change, the dispensary owners said.

Kevin Fisher, co-owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies in Steamboat Springs, said the state constitution includes privacy protections for patients. He said the state's medical marijuana laws that were passed last year undo those protections.

Owners "give up our statutory rights, but for a patient to buy meds in a dispensary, they shouldn't have to," Fisher said. "If you ask me, there are a couple of good things in (House Bill 1043), but a lot of bad. They're still chipping away at freedoms."

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JJ Southard, operations supervisor for Natural Choice in Steamboat, said some parts of the new legislation would clear up existing law.

"I think it helps to clarify a lot of the loose ends in (House Bill) 1284," he said, referring to last year's legislation that became the state's medical marijuana law.

Other provisions in House Bill 1043, which has not yet seen action, could be considered industry-friendly.

Rep. Tom Massey, who introduced the bill, told The Denver Post this month that it was drafted from feedback provided by medical marijuana business owners, state regulatory officials and law enforcement.

"We're trying to do everything we can to make this a more workable system for the state," said Massey, a Poncha Springs Republican.

Chris Ward, who owns Aloha's in Milner, is looking into adding additional locations — he asked the Steamboat Springs City Council last week to consider allowing another dispensary.

His request will have to wait until after July 1, when a statewide moratorium on new dispensaries is scheduled to expire, but wouldn't be affected by the new legislation. The city's rules allow only the three existing dispensaries.

City staff attorney Dan Foote said a new medical marijuana ordinance, which doesn't include allowing more dispensaries, would be presented to the Steamboat Springs Planning Commission on Feb. 10. He said the City Council would consider the ordinance March 2.

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