OURAY – While both the City of Ouray and the Town of Ridgway have already enacted moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries within municipal boundaries, the Ouray County Commissioners have had little discussion on whether or not the county should follow suit. Until now, that is.
The commissioners on Monday directed county staff to prepare a report and a possible recommendation regarding pot dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of Ouray County and whether or not they should be subject to a moratorium while the state legislature hashes out regulatory measures.
The notion of a moratorium in Ouray County was brought up by Commissioner Heidi Albritton at Monday’s meeting in Ouray. When medical marijuana dispensaries first began to pop up in towns across the state, she was inclined to simply allow them under the state regulations. But after sitting “ad nauseam” through many discussions on dispensaries, Albritton now believes the county should consider a moratorium.
“I think it would be prudent to stay in line with the municipalities in instituting a moratorium,” Albritton said, adding that the “biggest challenge” may be drafting new regulations by the time a six-month moratorium has expired.
Just last month the Ouray City Council approved a six-month moratorium on pot dispensaries. In October, the Ridgway Town Council passed a moratorium that will remain in effect for one year, or until further action is taken – whichever occurs first.
Commissioner Lynn Padgett said she would be open to discussing a moratorium but wants to give the public plenty of notice before a hearing on the matter takes place. She added that there aren’t many places in Ouray County where a commercial use, such as a dispensary, is considered a use-by-right.
“We are in a good position compared to other counties,” Padgett said. “We don’t allow commercial activity as a use-by-right in a lot of our different zones. One potential place for an application to come in that’s not in a municipality would be the Colona area. Maybe we see what the municipalities do.”
County Attorney Mary Deganhart said that if someone wanted to open a pot dispensary in the Colona area, he or she would still have to go through a special use permit process.
County Planner Mark Castrodale told the commissioners that he did receive a phone call recently from someone interested in opening a medical marijuana dispensary as a home delivery business in Ouray County. He said that the county currently has no regulatory process for that type of business.
“Looking at the home business code, there is no policy, no special use permit,” Castrodale said. “You need 1,000 feet of storage but you could just do it.”
“That is an interesting twist,” Padgett said.
Commissioner Keith Meinert agreed with Padgett that Ouray County is in a good position regarding regulating pot dispensaries, but said the board should avoid a “knee jerk” reaction.
“The municipalities have already started down this road and the bulk of the input is going to be surrounding those municipalities,” Meinert said. “We ought to participate, at least, by our attendance at all of the Ridgway and Ouray public hearings.”
Meinert said staff and members of the board could listen to the recommendations made at those hearings and later decide if the regulations are applicable to the Ouray County.
As for medical marijuana home delivery possibilities in the county, Meinert suggested that staff research that issue before any work sessions or public hearings are scheduled.
“We would like to hear from staff to flesh this issue out on what our Land Use Code says and what it doesn’t say, what we can and can’t do, and come back to us with a recommendation on whether it is something that is concerning. [Then] we should pick up on this and assemble [public hearings].”
Both Padgett and Albritton agreed with Meinert to direct staff to do some research on pot dispensaries and come back with a recommendation. A work session is tentatively scheduled for March 1.
“I think March is fine,” Albritton said. “I just wanted to throw it out there and get it on the table. There is a high level of interest.”