That was the question put to Ridgway’s town council at its regular August meeting last week by Ouray County’s lone medical marijuana cultivator, Chris Sanchez, and his attorney Christian Sederberg of Denver.
Sederberg explained (and Town Attorney John Kappa concurred) that the state of Colorado is still enforcing a moratorium on the licensing of new medical marijuana centers (formerly “dispensaries”) until July 1, 2012. But with one exception, Sederberg said. A center “banned” in its current jurisdiction may move to a new jurisdiction which has in place its own licensing procedures.
Sanchez has been cultivating pot in the county for “about a year,” he said. He grows on behalf of two dispensaries, one in Crawford and one in Crested Butte, which he also owns. The Crawford dispensary fell victim to a local decision to ban dispensaries in that North Fork town. And so, “We’d like to work with you guys,” Sederberg said, “to open a medical marijuana center in Ridgway.”
Attorney Kappa explained that the town had its own moratorium in place “coincident with the state’s moratorium, until July 2012.” He was aware of the state exception on moving banned businesses, but he said he was not sure “how this would work. We’d have to pass an ordinance. And I don’t know how many transfer applications you could get,” implying that more than just the Crawford dispensary might apply to move here if Ridgway were open to accepting them.
“Yes, we would have to modify our moratorium to accommodate this transfer,” Kappa said. “We’d definitely need an ordinance.”
Town Manager Jen Coates explained that, “In June 2010 we did have an ordinance proposed and ready to go” that addressed licensing of dispensaries in Ridgway. But when the state imposed its moratorium (since extended for a second year) the town decided to wait as well. But, she said, “We could get the state’s licensing regulations now from the Department of Revenue and start to work on this.”
At this point, Sanchez introduced Pat McCormick, a resident of the North Fork Valley and a card-carrying medial marijuana user. Speaking deliberately, McCormick described his two cancer surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. “I use it for appetite and pain, and it does work very well,” he said. “I’m here to speak for legal cardholders. We need more stores. They shut down the Paonia store, the Crawford store. Soon the Delta store will be closed. We don’t want to have to travel over the mountain to Telluride, or Carbondale. I want to make sure we’re not cut off from it all. Hopefully, you guys will have an open mind.”
Councilmember Ellen Hunter commented, “I think we should stay the course and stay in line with the state moratorium. We made a good decision, and we should stay there. Somebody from this community may have been waiting until the end of the moratorium” to apply for a license, “and we would be creating an exclusive business situation” for a non-local proprietor, she said.
Councilmembers Jim Kavanaugh and Eric Johnson expressed similar reservations.
But Mayor Pro Tem John Clark, saying he was “more on the fence,” displayed some frustration. “We all passed a state constitutional amendment allowing [medical marijuana]. I hate to see the way things have gone with the problems around recreational use. I wish there was a way we could do it.”
Councilor Rick Weaver said, “I’m more with John. We were pretty close, before the moratorium, to writing our ordinance.”
Thinking out loud about a time line for dealing with a transfer license application, Coates suggested the soonest the town might have an ordinance for second reading would be November. “Maybe not many months gain,” she said, “compared to starting in with the state a few months later” when the moratorium ends.
Mayor Pat Willits asked, “Do we want to ask staff, led by John Kappa, to continue to explore this issue of transfer and to report back at our next council meeting?”
The council agreed, unanimously, yes.
CURBSIDE RECYCLING WILL MOVE TO WEEKLY PICKUP
Despite mumbled complaints of “communism” from the back of the room, Ridgway’s town council last week voted 3-2 to bump curbside recycling from twice a month to weekly pickups.
Council had voted in June to begin the weekly schedule, but failed at its July meeting to field the necessary quorum to pass the ordinance.
Operator of the service Jonathan Greenspan, of S.U.N.R.I.S.E., Inc., had not been present at the last council meeting, so Mayor Pat Willits offered him the chance to make his case again. Greenspan, who processes recyclables from communities around the region at his plant in Ilium Valley, said the goal was to get to “zero waste, add more and more to the recycle stream, reduce the landfill stream.”
“The social aspect of recycling has evolved,” he said. “We were overflowing. It’s not just glass, tin and cardboard anymore. Now we can take metal, compost, fibers, Styrofoam, shrink wrap, flat board… People are getting it. The participation of the communities is tremendous.” Greenspan said that with weekly pickup (and the additional $2.50/month per residence) he could in fact handle the increased volume with fewer total truck trips.
That’s when the “communistic” comment floated forward. Why should everybody have to pay for the few that use the service? Another observer wondered in a stage whisper, “If it’s more efficient trip-wise, why is it more expensive?”
Greenspan responded that the cost increase was to cover his processing costs, including those for the expanded roster of recyclables. (He had just hauled in a new glass-crushing machine from Durango.) Electricity and fuel costs were up, and “these will get passed down, as always.”
Mayor Willits volunteered that, “There are lots of nuances here. There’s not a simple solution. We’ve heard from some citizens that they don’t use the service.”
“I don’t have kids, but I pay my school taxes,” countered Councilmember Eric Johnson. “I’m part of the community… I’m still in favor of weekly. People will recycle more. It benefits the entire community.”
Councilman Jim Kavanaugh said, “For me it’s worth the $2.50 just to promote recycling for the planet.”
Ellen Hunter agreed. “The $2.50 is worth it for the outreach and education. It wasn’t even possible to recycle when I first moved here. And it’s still cheaper than what I paid at the transfer station. This is an important thing for us to do.
“And,” she concluded, with weekly pickup, “you don’t have to remember which week it is; just put it out on the curb.”
Councilmember John Clark said he was “torn. It’s only $30 per year more. But in this economy, that’s important.”
Expressing his ambivalence as well, Councilor Rick Weaver mentioned the option available for big recyclers to purchase a second blue bin, and quoted absent Councilor Rich Durnan who had advocated that rather than charge more, we should be teaching people to crush their cans and bottles and thus get more into their bins.
In the end, council voted 3-2 (Weaver and Clark dissenting) to go to weekly pickups at a new monthly rate of $7.25 per household.
Willits wanted Greenspan to know that the long-simmering debate had nothing to do with his service. “You run an outstanding outfit,” he said. “And you have provided a great service to the town for the last couple of years. Clark seconded with his thanks.