Glenwood Springs City Council proceeds with medical pot licensing
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – While some area jurisdictions have gotten cold feet in their efforts to establish local regulations for medical marijuana businesses, the city of Glenwood Springs is moving forward with its final set of rules to control the industry within city limits.
City Council, at a June 16 work session, continued to refine its plans to set local licensing policies and procedures, including fees, for medical marijuana dispensaries, commercial cultivation and manufacturing of infused products, such as edibles.
Earlier this spring, the city adopted a zoning ordinance that spelled out how and where in the city the businesses could operate.
Recently, neighboring Pitkin County halted its plans to regulate the industry on concerns from the county’s attorney that, by enforcing local rules, it could expose county employees to prosecution for abetting the violation of federal drug laws.
While Colorado voters made possession and use of marijuana for certain medical purposes legal 11 years ago, the drug itself remains illegal under United States law.
With its decision, come July 1, Pitkin County will leave it up to the state to regulate the various businesses operating in unincorporated parts of that county under rules adopted by the Colorado Legislature this past session as part of HB 1043.
Other area jurisdictions, including Garfield County, the city of Glenwood Springs and the town of Carbondale, have imposed moratoriums on new medical marijuana businesses for different lengths of time, while they continue to work on their own local regulations.
Glenwood’s moratorium is set to end Oct. 1. By then, City Council intends to have the new medical marijuana business licensing rules in place to go along with the already adopted zoning regulations.
“We do need to continue to monitor the whole thing,” Glenwood city attorney Jan Shute said of concerns about a possible heavy-handed approach by federal drug enforcement agents. For now, though, the city is proceeding in setting its own rules.
The zoning ordinance already establishes that facilities can be located only jin the city’s commercial and industrial zone districts, and that they be no closer than 500 feet from schools and other medical marijuana businesses.
Much of the licensing ordinance will mirror state regulations, but the city will likely tailor the rules related to such things as hours of operation, on-site signage and advertising, transfer of licenses to new business owners, and the actual licensing fees.
One concern related to signs is that they include the word “medical” marijuana somewhere. Certain on-site advertising that could be attractive to children and unsuspecting adults, such as marijuana-infused ice cream and candy, which are common, may also be restricted.
As for licensing fees, Mayor Matt Steckler said he doesn’t want to see the city try to make extra money off of medical marijuana businesses through excessive fees.
“Any fees should reflect the actual cost to the town to administer the process,” Steckler said. “Fees should cover the cost of a government service, no more, no less.”
The town of Carbondale, in its licensing ordinance approved earlier this year, imposed an extra fee to pay for a medical marijuana education program in the community and local schools.
Carbondale is still working on its zoning regulations for commercial operations. Its moratorium on new businesses extends through the end of the year.
Glenwood Springs will continue to work on its licensing rules over the next several weeks, and may have a formal ordinance for consideration by late August.
Garfield County commissioners recently extended the county moratorium through 2012 while they attempt to write rules for medical marijuana cultivation operations in the county. Last fall, county voters opted to allow cultivation in unincorporated parts of the county, but to prohibit dispensaries and infused-products manufacturing.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.