Disbanding dispensaries

Aug 232011
Authors: Justin Rampy

Fort Collins City Council decided last week to leave the controversial decision of closing medical marijuana dispensaries up to citizens after a local activist group petitioned for a city-wide dispensary ban.

Meeting on Aug. 16, council members voted six to one in favor of not banning dispensaries upon their own volition. Wade Troxell was the single council member who voted to support the ban.

“I circulated petitions myself and was in full support of the ban,” Troxell said. “My wife Jean was involved with the citizen group, but my status as a councilmember doesn’t prevent her from fully participating as a citizen of Fort Collins.”

Because the motion to ban was struck down, the citizen’s initiative will be placed on the November special election ballot, an action that was contested by Rich Lipuma, a lawyer for Lipuma Law Associates in Fort Collins.

He contended that the Council was not authorized to place the initiative on a special election, instead that they would have to wait until the next regular election in April. He quoted several passages from the Council’s own bylaws, stating that their certification was invalid for a special election.

“A mistake in the certification process does not invalidate a citizen petition,” Troxell said.
Lipuma said his clients might seek to file an injunction against the council for their alleged procedural mistake.

Behind Lipuma, dozens of people lined up for citizen participation. Impassioned accounts followed on both sides of the issue.

George Bryan, 86, discussed his battle with severe back pain for over 29 years. He had tried every surgery and medication doctors would give him when, in 2010, a doctor prescribed him medical marijuana and he tried it for the first time in his life.

“It is the only relief I get,” Bryan said.

Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith came to the meeting to praise “compassionate Colorado citizens” for passing Amendment 20, and said from 2000 to 2009 the model for medical marijuana (caregiver-patient relationship) had no significant effect on law enforcement.

“But between the years 2009 to 2010, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office saw an increase of 20 percent in marijuana-related incidents,” Smith said. “And Fort Collins saw an increase of 40 percent between 2008 and 2010.”

Lauren Fortenbury, 26, suffers from a premature case of multiple sclerosis. She is prescribed medical marijuana to deal with her symptoms.

“I don’t have the time or energy to grow my own medicine, and I don’t want to depend on going to caregivers’ homes to buy marijuana,” Fortenbury said.

There were several passionate mothers giving accounts of their children’s drug problems. Tears were shed for their addictions that “all started with marijuana.” They expressed their fervent desire to reduce the exposure of cannabis on the public.

Whether the election is held in November, or potentially in April, Fort Collins residents will ultimately decide the fate of dispensaries.

Staff writer Justin Rampy can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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