There are 21 medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins, but if a local activist group succeeds in its endeavor, that count could drop to zero.
At the beginning of this summer, the Concerned Fort Collins Citizens (CFCC) assembled a petition which, if approved, will force all retail medical marijuana businesses in Fort Collins to shut down. The group garnered more than 7,000 signatures in support of the ban â€” only 4,214 are needed for a proposal â€” and last week the signatures were deemed legitimate by the city, according to Fort Collins City Clerk Wanda Krajicek.
Now that the petitionâ€™s signatures have been reviewed, it will be put in the hands of the Fort Collins City Council, Krajicek said. And on Aug. 16, the council members will either vote to directly approve the proposal, or theyâ€™ll send it to Novemberâ€™s ballot, leaving it up to Fort Collins voters.
â€œI would be shocked if the city council approves it right away,â€ said Larimer County Sheriff and CFCC member Justin Smith. â€œBut at the very least, this deserves the citizen vote.â€
Sheriff Smith has been a proponent for the banning of medical marijuana dispensaries since 2009, when a shift in Coloradoâ€™s medical marijuana laws led to a laxity among distributors and increase of dispensaries. From 2009 to 2010, Smith cited a 20 percent increase in marijuana-related crime.
â€œFort Collins promotes healthy living, so why encourage marijuana use?â€ Smith asked. â€œMy take is, we didnâ€™t see so many problems before (2009) with the original patient-caregiver model, so we need to return to that.â€
But with the 21 dispensaries in Fort Collins comes a strong support of medical marijuana use and subsequently adamant opposition to the CFCCâ€™s petition.
Most of this support comes from a group formed in direct opposition to the petition â€” the Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods.
Terri Gomez, the groupâ€™s campaign director, believes the proposal will be sent to the ballot in November, however, sheâ€™s in the process of educating voters about what she believes would be the negative impact of the ban.
â€œOur job is to get out there and educate people of the real potential consequences,â€ Gomez said.
â€œI donâ€™t think the ban would affect recreational cannabis use at all. If people want to find it, theyâ€™ll find it,â€ she said. Gomez believes those affected most by the ban would be the â€œover 65â€ group â€” patients she says use medical marijuana strictly for chronic pain and other ailments.
â€œ(The older users) arenâ€™t the ones causing the real problems, but theyâ€™re the ones who would pay the stiffest price,â€ Gomez said.
Dave Schwaab, owner of the Fort Collins dispensary, Abundant Healing, also thinks the ban would be counterproductive.
â€œMarijuana is not going away, so banning the only places itâ€™s kept under regulation is a very bad idea,â€ Schwaab said.
â€œEvery day, patients tell me how theyâ€™ve gotten off of opiate prescriptions because of medical marijuana,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m trying right now to educate (voters) about how much medical marijuana helps thousands of people in Fort Collins.â€
Aside from the supportersâ€™ argument of medical marijuanaâ€™s benefits, some CSU students believe the proposal is not worth the cityâ€™s time.
â€œPeople are going to smoke (marijuana) anyway, no matter how many dispensaries there are, so I think that the ban is not going to do a doggone thing,â€ said sophomore applied human sciences major Denice Shokranifar.
â€œI think the whole thing is silly,â€ said senior liberal arts major Nick Holland. â€œThere are much worse issues to confront right now.â€
Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney can be reached at email@example.com.