GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — The first medical marijuana growing operation to have to go through Garfield County’s formal land-use review process earned approval from the county commissioners on Monday.
The Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to allow an existing cultivation facility located in the Red Canyon Plaza, near the intersection of Highway 82 and County Road 115 south of Glenwood Springs, to continue to operate.
The facility supplies the Green Essentials medical marijuana dispensary on 10th Street in Glenwood Springs.
Last summer, the operators were unable to provide some of the necessary documentation to prove their growing facility existed before the county imposed a moratorium on all medical marijuana operations in June 2010.
As a result, Green Essentials owner Ron Radtke was required to apply for what’s called a land-use change permit under the county’s 2012 medical marijuana regulations, requiring a full impact review and public hearings.
Commissioners, following the county planning commission’s recommendation, approved the permit with no public opposition and only one “no” vote from Commission Chairman John Martin.
Martin said that, “as a matter of principle,” he couldn’t support permitting an operation that he maintains could be subject to federal search and seizure since marijuana is still illegal under federal law, despite Colorado’s voter-approved legalization.
Commissioners Tom Jankovsky and Mike Samson voted to allow the facility to continue to operate.
Jankovsky did make a point to clarify that marijuana grown at the facility is to be used to supply the existing medical marijuana dispensary in Glenwood Springs only, and not the new recreational retail marijuana trade which state law began allowing as of Jan. 1.
Garfield County last year prohibited all business activity associated with recreational marijuana, which local jurisdictions are allowed to do under Amendment 64.
The only type of medical marijuana activity allowed in the unincorporated parts of Garfield County is cultivation, as approved by county voters in November 2010. Voters in that same election rejected medical marijuana dispensaries and marijuana products manufacturing in areas outside of town limits.
Several medical marijuana growing facilities were already in operation in the county at the time of the 2010 moratorium, and continue to operate as pre-existing uses even though some do not conform to the county’s land-use regulations that went into effect two years later.
Any changes to those pre-existing operations, and any new cultivation facilities, are required to go through the land-use approval process.
The Green Essentials facility did request a waiver from one of the county’s rules that marijuana cultivation not take place within 1,000 feet of a public building.
Holy Cross Energy, a public electric cooperative, has its main headquarters directly across Highway 82 from the Red Canyon Plaza. Commissioners agreed that the highway provides adequate separation.
The county requires a 1,000-foot separation from schools and churches as well. The nearby Mountain View Church is located more than 1,000 feet from the Green Essentials cultivation facility, and also on the opposite side of the highway.