As the muddy and complicated details continue to unfold concerning the State of Colorado’s newly passed regulations on dispensaries, members of council unanimously approved (Councilmember Paul Hebert absent) the second and final reading of Ordinance 7-2010, which will allow licensed medical marijuana facilities in the town’s Industrial 1, and Industrial 2 zones as well as the General Commercial Zone east of Liddell Street. The ordinance is intended to dovetail with the Colorado House Bill 1284, recently signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, that requires dispensaries to be licensed and monitored statewide, in a process similar to the state process for liquor licensing.
The approved ordinance will lift the town’s moratorium on dispensaries, once the state’s regulations are in place and functional – although just when that will be is unclear.
“Sooner or later the Department of Revenue will be adopting its regulations,” Kappa told council. “It’s not clear how fast that will happen, but it will establish the details of the license program.”
As the Colorado Department of Revenue starts work on its license regulations, only dispensaries has been locally approved and licensed before June 30 will be given the green light. New proprietors will have to wait until July 2011 to receive a license under the new state regulations. In essence, because the town’s moratorium isn’t officially lifted until the state regulations are functional and because of the looming June 30 deadline for licensed facilities, it is unlikely that any new dispensaries will be opening in Ridgway for the next year.
Jeanne Robertson, owner of Ridgway Apothecary, a medical marijuana delivery service, told council she would like to open a facility in Ridgway, if council to work out a way to lift the moratorium and provide local licensing regulations before the June 30 deadline.
“I am requesting that you lift it as soon as possible,” Robertson said, “and put in [licensing scheme] so we can do something here before July 1. It would have to be really fast and it would have to be done quickly.” Robertson also suggested that in the ordinance allowing dispensaries, the Historic Business District be one zone that would allow for dispensaries.
Kappa told council that it would take a unanimous vote on council to approve an emergency ordinance that would detail the town’s licensing scheme that night in order for Robertson or any other potential proprietor to apply that new town license and subsequently be approved before June 30.
“I am sure I could cook something up,” Kappa told council. “If I was going to do it, I would make it the same or close to the state statute,” which is, she pointed out, 290 pages long. “It would be big. It would take an emergency ordinance to put it into effect and that would take six votes agreeing on the details of it.”
Kappa reminded council that its reason for originally enacting a moratorium on dispensaries was to make sure they were on terra firma before formalizing binding regulations.
“If we do this, the ground becomes less solid,” Kappa said. “For any kind of comprehensive licensing scheme, to expect to draft, adopt and administer it by the end of this month, is, I think, unrealistic. If we follow the state scheme, we would be drafting our own application forms and background investigations.”
And while drafting and approving an emergency ordinance at approximately 7 p.m. that evening seemed unlikely, several councilmembers expressed a wiliness to work out a plan that would allow for potential dispensaries to be locally approved before June 30.
“The thing I have the hardest time with is the way the state is taking its approach with this,” Mayor Pro Tem John Clark said. “It seems really odd that it is essentially putting another year limit on anyone going into business with a dispensary. In the big picture, my take is that that a state constitutional amendment legalized medical marijuana. I believe there are people that have a legitimate value for medical marijuana. I don’t think it is fair to make it more difficult for people to get that. And from what I am hearing here, [Robertson] can’t continue unless we get something together prior to the June 30 deadline.
“I don’t think that is right,” Clark said.
“I agree,” Councilmember Rick Weaver said.
The council discussion continued at length into the evening, trying to find some way for potential businesses to be licensed before the June 30 deadline. One possibility considered was the creation of an interim licensing scheme, but in the end, council decided that it could not pass such an important set of regulations with an emergency ordinance.
“I suggest that we do two things,” Mayor Pat Willits said. “That we do not move rapidly at this time on an interim licensing procedure, but we do lift the moratorium to allow home delivery within town limits.”
Councilmember Rich Durnan agreed that council should not rush to create licensing regulations.
As part of the approval of the ordinance, council did approve lifting the moratorium on deliveries to registered patients by businesses pursuant to state statues.