In light of the recent growth spurt of medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins, the City Council will vote on an ordinance that prevents potential dispensaries from obtaining operating permits for three months today.
The ordinance, if passed, will take effect on Dec. 11 and halt the sales tax permit application process for three months while city staff investigates the impact of the dispensaries on the city.
The dispensaries, like any other business, will be unable to operate without the permit, Councilmember Wade Troxell, D-4, said.
But, Troxell said, it takes roughly two days to complete the application process, so a number of new dispensaries could pop up in the 10-day period between the ordinance passing and it taking effect.
The City Council’s ordinance outlines a number of risks that unregulated dispensaries “will cause.” The risks are:
deterioration of residential and commercial areas,
violent crime resulting in the injury of patrons,
injuries from occupying unsafe buildings,
violation of federal and state law concerning the distribution of illegal substances,
exposing youth to a “culture of illegal drug usage,” and
the increase of people relocating to Fort Collins to participate in the “manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs.”
During the moratorium, the city manager and city attorney will analyze the legal protection, impact on residential and commercial areas and criminal activity associated with medical marijuana dispensaries.
“(The lack of zoning regulation) creates a mish-mash — a hodge-podge — of land usage,” Troxell said.
Dispensaries, he said, should be treated like a pharmacy and the production of medicinal marijuana like an industry.
“It’s a production facility. And how is that any different than a bottling plant for New Belgium Brewery?” Troxell said.
City Council documents identify 23 officially-registered medical marijuana dispensaries in Fort Collins but say “Police Services believes” a number of other dispensaries operate under various licensing such as “horticulture supply.”
Tim Gordon, owner of Medicinal Gardens of Colorado, said obtaining all of the necessary permits to open a dispensary was a “costly and arduous process.”
The moratorium, he said, may help his business, but he opened his dispensary for the benefit of his patients — not profit.
“This isn’t a competitive thing. This is about patient care,” he said.
Gordon said he supports the moratorium, and said the City Council should impose zoning laws, regulate advertisement and conduct background checks for any type of criminal offenses in people seeking license.
Fort Collins is home to what Gordon said are “weed shops,” and said these dispensaries don’t provide safe medical marijuana and it buying from these places is like a “drug deal.”
Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.