Unincorporated Arapahoe County has eight known medical-marijuana businesses in operation, and the local industry is unlikely to grow any larger until …
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Unincorporated Arapahoe County has eight known medical-marijuana
businesses in operation, and the local industry is unlikely to grow
any larger until at least June 14.
On Jan. 12, the county’s board of commissioners voted 4-1 to
impose a five-month moratorium on new dispensaries and growing
operations in unincorporated areas. The decision comes on the heels
of last month’s move to enact a four-week moratorium.
The dissenting vote came from Commissioner Jim Dyer, a
Centennial Republican whose proposal for a 12-month moratorium was
rejected by other board members on the advice of the county
In recent weeks, Dyer has indicated his desire to keep
dispensaries out of the county entirely. That may not be possible
in light of legal precedent and the accepted legal uses of
moratoriums on business types.
The City of Centennial was recently sued by CannaMart, a
dispensary that the city had forced to close on the grounds that
any marijuana use violates federal law.
Last month, a district judge granted CannaMart’s request for a
preliminary injunction, ruling that local governments cannot
enforce federal law or use it as a pretext for denying a right
guaranteed in a state constitution.
Although in 2000, Colorado voters approved a constitutional
amendment permitting medicinal use of marijuana, its use for any
purpose remains illegal under federal law. The U.S. Justice
Department has called prosecution of such patients a low
Moratoriums on dispensaries have generally been designed to give
local governments enough time to consider the “secondary effects”
of the quickly proliferating businesses and regulate them
County Attorney Kathryn Schroeder indicated that a yearlong
prohibition on such operations, as promoted by Dyer, could make the
county vulnerable to lawsuits.
“Moratoriums are only allowed so you can deal with issues that
have arisen that you haven’t had time to deal with,” Schroeder
advised. “You’re not allowed to use a moratorium as an effective
ban on a use.”
The five-month moratorium — similar to those recently passed in
surrounding cities — had come at the urging of Arapahoe County
Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who called medical marijuana a
“self-regulated” industry prone to fraud and abuse.
“I support the moratorium until the state legislators can sit
down, review this matter, and come back at us with some semblance
of regulation,” he said. “… Right now, state law enforcement, and
this sheriff’s office particularly, has no idea what the
Robinson, the chief law enforcement provider in the county,
added that he has no objection to a limited number of legitimate
patients in the county using marijuana.
“Very frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I support that,” the
sheriff said. “However, I do not believe that there are 17,500
people in our state that are currently suffering from debilitating
injuries or illnesses that would cause medical marijuana to be a
After Robinson finished, Dyer chastised his fellow officials for
rejecting his request for a longer moratorium and reprised his
objections in principle to all medical-marijuana dispensaries.
“The federal government has cravenly refused to enforce the law.
It’s not up to local governments to try to overturn that by
regulating something that’s fundamentally on a federal basis
illegal to do,” he said.
Commissioners may eventually meet Dyer’s demands for a longer
hold-off on dispensaries if a clear regulatory framework has not
been established at the federal, state or county level by June
“In four months, we can easily come back and extend the
moratorium and I think we will extend it,” said Commissioner Susan
Beckman, a Littleton Republican.
The recently convened state Legislature is expected to take up
the issue of dispensaries in coming months. Meanwhile, some city
council and other county boards have already passed their own
ordinances regulating dispensaries.
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