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Florence OKs Moratorium on Medical Marijuana

October 7th, 2009 Dr. Skunky

Colorado Medical Marijuana

FLORENCE, COLORADO — Claiming the city wanted to be prepared, the Florence City Council approved an ordinance to place a 90-day moratorium on the use of property in city limits to dispense medical marijuana and paraphernalia.After Colorado adopted Amendment 20, which made it legal for people to obtain, possess, cultivate, grow, use and distribute marijuana for medical purposes, the city decided to be prepared.

“In terms in trying to regulate the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, we don’t have any language regulations in place,” said City Attorney Bryan Fredrickson Monday during its regular meeting. “Obviously, these questions arise on whether the city might want the dispensaries close to a school, for example, or a child-care facility.”

The ordinance will not permanently prohibit the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes because the amendment to the constitution allows it.

“Hopefully, we can jump on this relatively quickly and decide what kind of language we might want or other regulatory language in the event someone comes to town” to start a dispensary, Fredrickson said. “As far as I know, it’s not an issue right now.”

Councilman Charles Giebler said he opposed the ordinance as written.

“I believe that ordinance 16-2009 is jumping the gun,” he said. “We’ve had no interest in anyone doing it here. I believe the city council needs to study and implement appropriate land use and regulatory provisions regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, which I believe we’re going to find out will be the same as any pharmacy. I don’t see this happening in Florence anytime soon. We probably should get on it, but to pass an ordinance that just seems unfriendly to the sick and impaired, it doesn’t seem right to me.”

It is reported the No. 1 abuse of drugs are prescription drugs.

Councilman Joe Caruso reported a story of a family, which already is licensed as a dispensary.

“This would make them a criminal in the City of Florence,” he said.

When Caruso asked whether Fox Drug could dispense medical marijuana, Fredrickson said that pharmacies cannot, because they are regulated by federal law.

“That’s why this has become a Colorado problem, because the Colorado amendment passed in contradiction to federal law,” he said. “This ordinance does not prevent them from dispensing it to the patient. This is more of a moratorium to prevent commercial operations” in certain zones.

Councilman Roger McFaul said rather than impose an ordinance, it would be better to take time to come up with an ordinance to regulate it.

Councilman Ron Hinkle said he could see both sides.

“I somewhat agree that it would be a benefit to have something in place before a situation develops,” he said. “We can say that hasn’t happened in Florence yet. But we don’t know about a situation. Things can change in a heartbeat. They can change overnight.”

Pro Tem Mayor Paul Villagrana said the moratorium gives the city a chance to determine the regulations it would like to pursue.

After adding 90 days to the ordinance, the council approved the temporary moratorium.

Following the vote, Florence City Planner Don Moore has written a first draft to determine how to proceed.

“We’re treating these dispensaries as retail sales outlets and recommending the zone be changed in the commercial,” he said. “We would recommend the zoning would be changed in the commercial zone district to allow the dispensary by special use only. We’d like to take downtown out of that because there is very little parking. These things could use a lot of parking.”

The Florence Planning Commission will host a public hearing on the zoning of marijuana dispensaries at its November meeting.

The way it is written now “not only can you dispense, but you can use it on premises, which the planning commission may chose to remove. Some communities have,” Moore said.


Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Thrive in Colorado

July 29th, 2009 Dr. Skunky

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder County Caregivers offers 16 glass jars of marijuana with names like Skinny Pineapple and Early Pearl Maui, priced at $375 to $420 an ounce. There are marijuana capsules and snacks made with cannabis butter, such as rice crispy treats.

Co-owner Jill Leigh urges customers to try a syrupy tincture she calls “the Advil of medical marijuana.” A drop under the tongue gives less of a high but the same pain relief as smoking, she says.

Leigh’s sales are legal — and taxed — under Colorado’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. Her marijuana dispensary and nearly 60 others serve a rapidly growing number of users with little oversight. Critics of the system say it’s prone to abuse and point to a growing number of younger patients. But a recent state effort to impose more controls failed.

More than 9,000 people are registered in Colorado to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation — up 2,000 in the past month.

The total is expected to rise to 15,000 by year’s end, according to the state health department, which blames the rapid increase on patient confidentiality guarantees and federal plans to stop raiding medical marijuana operations, which the U.S. government considers illegal.

Last week, the state health board rejected a proposal to limit suppliers to five patients. Dispensary owners said the plan would force many to close. Others, including Leigh, say Colorado should better regulate its dispensaries to deter abuses. But Chief Medical Officer Ned Calonge said he simply doesn’t have that authority under the 2000 law.

Some towns are stepping in. On Tuesday, Breckenridge will consider rules to keep dispensaries away from schools and restrict their hours to prevent thefts. Police Chief Rick Holman said the ideas came from Cannabis Therapeutics, a Colorado Springs dispensary believed to be the state’s largest with 1,400 patients.

The Denver suburb of Commerce City also is drafting its own rules. In Boulder, police have reached out to dispensaries after thieves stole two 20-gallon barrels of marijuana from one business in June.

Leigh’s waiting room could be found in a dentist’s office, save for coffee-table reading material that includes a copy of High Times and a Timothy Leary book. Spice jars feature samples of marijuana available for sale. All sales are by appointment only, and Leigh’s business collects about $10,000 in sales tax a month.

Leigh’s patients are mainly middle-aged women with multiple sclerosis and men coping with hepatitis C. One employee said he takes tincture drops to help prevent seizures. A customer, a jiujitsu coach, said he uses it to treat pain from four surgeries and regular fights.

Leigh said she and her husband, who uses marijuana to cope with degenerative disc disease, started selling marijuana he was growing to avoid running up against the law.

Patients can only possess up to 2 ounces of usable marijuana under Colorado law. But a patient or his designated caregiver can grow six marijuana plants — but only three can flower at any time.

Today Leigh, a self-described soccer and karate mom, has seven employees, offers health insurance and plans to add 401(k) benefits. She worries federal agents might raid her business, even though the Obama administration says the government will stop targeting medical marijuana operations that are in line with state law.

For luck, Leigh hangs Tibetan prayer flags in her offices and has a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god of Ganesh. She says a California dispensary that had both items was spared in a recent federal raid.