Puff, puff, protest

 Uncategorized
Aug 022011
 
Authors: Colleen McSweeney

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 — only 4,214 are needed for a proposal — and last week the signatures were deemed legitimate by the city, according to Fort Collins City Clerk Wanda Krajicek.

Now that the petition’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 they’ll send it to November’s ballot, leaving it up to Fort Collins voters.

“I would be shocked if the city council approves it right away,” said Larimer County Sheriff and CFCC member Justin Smith. “But at the very least, this deserves the citizen vote.”

Sheriff Smith has been a proponent for the banning of medical marijuana dispensaries since 2009, when a shift in Colorado’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.

“Fort Collins promotes healthy living, so why encourage marijuana use?” Smith asked. “My take is, we didn’t see so many problems before (2009) with the original patient-caregiver model, so we need to return to that.”

But with the 21 dispensaries in Fort Collins comes a strong support of medical marijuana use and subsequently adamant opposition to the CFCC’s petition.

Most of this support comes from a group formed in direct opposition to the petition — the Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods.

Terri Gomez, the group’s campaign director, believes the proposal will be sent to the ballot in November, however, she’s in the process of educating voters about what she believes would be the negative impact of the ban.

“Our job is to get out there and educate people of the real potential consequences,” Gomez said.

“I don’t think the ban would affect recreational cannabis use at all. If people want to find it, they’ll find it,” she said. Gomez believes those affected most by the ban would be the “over 65” group — patients she says use medical marijuana strictly for chronic pain and other ailments.

“(The older users) aren’t the ones causing the real problems, but they’re the ones who would pay the stiffest price,” Gomez said.

Dave Schwaab, owner of the Fort Collins dispensary, Abundant Healing, also thinks the ban would be counterproductive.
“Marijuana is not going away, so banning the only places it’s kept under regulation is a very bad idea,” Schwaab said.

“Every day, patients tell me how they’ve gotten off of opiate prescriptions because of medical marijuana,” he said. “I’m trying right now to educate (voters) about how much medical marijuana helps thousands of people in Fort Collins.”

Aside from the supporters’ argument of medical marijuana’s benefits, some CSU students believe the proposal is not worth the city’s time.

“People 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,” said sophomore applied human sciences major Denice Shokranifar.

“I think the whole thing is silly,” said senior liberal arts major Nick Holland. “There are much worse issues to confront right now.”

Editorial Editor Colleen McSweeney can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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