Commissioners pass rules on medical marijuana

Posted 3/16/11

More than a year of study, discussion and hearings culminated March 15 when Arapahoe County commissioners unanimously approved the new section of the …

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Commissioners pass rules on medical marijuana

Posted

More than a year of study, discussion and hearings culminated March 15 when Arapahoe County commissioners unanimously approved the new section of the land development code prohibiting any new medical marijuana-related businesses in unincorporated Arapahoe County.

However, any product manufactures, growers or dispensaries existing before the county’s first moratorium was adopted Dec. 15, 2009 can remain open provided they are in an area zoned for industrial use as a non-conforming commercial use. There were eight medical marijuana-related businesses in the unincorporated area and all remain open.

Commissioner Susan Beckman said she felt the approved legislation complied with the wishes of the voters, kept the community safe and assured the neighborhoods would be livable for all county residents.

She also noted that this now is a land-use issue, which moves the enforcement responsibilities from the sheriff’s office to code enforcement officers.

“Of course, the code enforcement will work with the sheriff’s office in any case where safety is an issue,” she said “Also, we will monitor this issue to see if we need to strengthen the law to assure the necessary enforcement to keep our residents and our county safe.”

Ron Carl, assistant city attorney, provided the commissioners with the latest draft of the proposed land-use regulation at the March 15 meeting.

He said, while much of the proposal remains the same, one change in the current draft addresses non-commercial marijuana growing or production by a registered patient or that patient’s caregiver.

Carl said the language allows the non-commercial operations in all zoned areas but limits cultivation to six plants per registered patient up to a maximum of 12 plants in one location. Outside the residential zones, the growing or cultivation must not be within 1,000 feet of a church, residential school, park or licensed child-care center.

Another restriction is permitted land use for marijuana by a patient or caregiver must be in a secure structure inside the building and not visible to the public nor can it cause odors, heat, glare or light pollution that is detectable beyond the building’s property line.

Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2000 to allow use of marijuana for medical purposes. Colorado now is one of 15 states and the District of Columbia where medical use of marijuana is legal even though any marijuana use remains illegal under federal law.

But the medical marijuana issue in Colorado drew major attention in 2009 when the Colorado Board of Health rejected a plan that would have limited the number of patients a caregiver could serve. Then, in October of that year, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would not pursue cases against medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they followed state law.

With those barriers aside, a flood of individuals got the necessary prescription to obtain a state medical marijuana card and, quickly numerous medical marijuana businesses opened to supply the product.

A number of local jurisdictions took steps to either ban or limit the number of medical marijuana-related businesses. That power was reinforced last year when the state Legislature passed a law allowing local governments to ban medical marijuana businesses completely, either by a vote of the people or action by the elected officials.

Lone Tree, Greenwood Village and Aurora have prohibited the businesses within those communities. Littleton set a limit on the number of businesses allowed within the city. Englewood and Centennial have a moratorium in place banning any new medical marijuana businesses until new regulations are in place.

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