TELLURIDE – In a 6-1 vote, the Telluride Town Council approved the second reading of an ordinance governing the establishment and operation of new medical marijuana dispensaries within town boundaries when it met on Tuesday.
With the vote Telluride joins a growing list of Colorado municipalities to adopt local regulations in response to a recent proliferation of dispensaries sparked by an amendment to the state constitution approved by the voters in 2000 that authorized the medical use of marijuana.
The ordinance requires new businesses seeking to dispense medical marijuana to obtain a certificate of zoning compliance from the town. To obtain the certificate applicants will have to submit a “dispensary plan” setting forth security provisions, hours of operation, the number of employees, and, if any cultivation is to occur, a plan for cultivation.
After a lengthy discussion instigated by Telluride attorney Jennifer Fox, council ultimately loosened restrictions in the original ordinance that allowed the town to withhold a certificate of zoning compliance from any applicant who had previously been convicted of a felony offense.
“I think this conflicts with the constitutional definition of a caregiver,” Fox said, suggesting, as she did when council considered the first reading of the ordinance three weeks ago, that some of its proposed restrictions could be too restrictive of a constitutional right and might subject the town to litigation.
As a result of that discussion council determined that certificates of zoning compliance could not be withheld from felons whose convictions were at least five years old.
Council also struck a provision that would have required dispensaries wishing to cultivate marijuana on-site to install approved ventilation systems and to provide their associated mechanical plans as part of a dispensary plan.
“I don’t think it would be fair to tie people’s hands behind equipment that may or may not do the job,” said Councilmember David Oyster.
“It’s hard enough to get a kitchen vent to vent properly,” he later added.
In addition to the certificate of zoning compliance applicants will also be required to maintain a current and valid business license and a sales tax license.
Other provisions of the ordinance regulate signage, prohibit the on-site consumption of marijuana and prohibit the sale or consumption alcohol on the premises (except for alcohol-based tinctures), prohibit dispensaries within 500 feet of a school or outside of the Commercial and Historic Commercial zone districts, and require security provisions.
In addition, dispensaries must post a sign warning that the diversion of marijuana for non-medical uses is a violation of state law, that it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle or operate machinery under the influence of marijuana, that possession and distribution of marijuana is a violation of federal law, that the smoking or consumption of marijuana in public is a violation of state law, and include a warning that smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and may complicate pregnancy
Councilmember Ann Brady, who inquired if there was some specific pressure to pass the ordinance on Tuesday due to time constraints, cast the sole dissenting vote.
“There were quite a few additions and corrections and I thought we should take a little more time and see the final product,” she said.
There are already three medical marijuana dispensaries in Telluride. They will not be subject to the new ordinance because they entered business prior to the imposition of a moratorium on any new dispensaries by council in October.