Mar 282010
 
Authors: Joe E. Goings

Fort Collins City Council passed its medical marijuana ordinance to regulate the licensing and placement of medical marijuana businesses, or MMBs, in Fort Collins by a 6-1 vote on second reading March 16.

The most significant regulations control the locations of dispensaries.

Under the ordinance, MMBs must be located more than 1,000 feet from schools and other MMBs, and more than 500 feet from residential areas, places of worship, recreational areas, child care centers, universities and rehabilitation facilities.

It also mandates that dispensaries sell their product in commercial areas and cultivate their product in industrial areas. This regulation will adversely affect those MMBs that grow their product in-house and may force several operations to shut down, said councilman Ben Manvel, who voted to approve the ordinance.

Only six of the city’s dispensariess are currently in compliance with the new regulations, said neighborhood administrator Ginny Sawyer. The 30 additional dispensaries must obtain temporary licenses by June 30 in order to stay in operation.

Dispensaries operated out of homes must shut down 10 days after June 30 or move to an approved, licensed location. The application fee for MMB licenses is $500, and the licensing fee is $700.

“We want to have the right rules to apply to the special situation of buying and selling marijuana in Fort Collins,” Manvel said. City Council chose to create these regulations to bring “some order to a disorderly situation,” he said.

Tim Gordon, owner of Medicinal Gardens of Colorado said he is “up in the air” about the ordinance. Gordon said the regulations can have such negative effects as job loss, business relocation and patients having to travel much greater distances to receive treatment. Gordon is concerned for his patients’ ability to come to his facility to receive medication, a concern he shares with other owners.

While several owners and managers expressed concern for the future of their business and issues with the ordinance, the general agreement was that these regulations needed to happen in order to control the number of dispensaries in Fort Collins.

“I applaud them for being proactive for taking it on in a timely manner,” said Steve Ackerman, manager of Organic Alternatives. “Ultimately, I think it is in need of fine tuning, as with most laws and ordinances. I feel confident this will happen over time.”

The ordinance will go back to council in September, at which time the council will assess the location issues that arose from the ordinance. At this meeting, city council will decide whether to let some dispensaries stay where they are or revoke their licenses, forcing them to shut down.

“Of course I’m concerned,” Ackerman said. “Hopefully, City Council will allow the ones already in business to stay in business. There is no fair way to pick which ones remain. They will have to deal with this in a just manner.”

The sole dissenting vote, councilman David Roy, could not be reached for comment by the Collegian.

Staff writer Joe E. Goings can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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