Nov 012011
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

Though the final results for Question 300 were unavailable at the time of publication, supporters of the measure are claiming victory in their quest to ban the 20 Fort Collins medical marijuana dispensaries.

After a hard-fought campaign, supporters said they were clearly winning after speaking with the county clerk just 30 minutes after the 7 p.m. ballot deadline.

“I think this sends a strong message that the character of this community is not one that wants to be recognized as the marijuana city,” said Ray Martinez, a former Fort Collins mayor and strong advocate of banning dispensaries.

With the passage of the measure, Fort Collins dispensaries will have 90 days to close their doors. This follows suit with dozens of other communities around the state that have voted to ban dispensary storefronts.

“We want to be recognized as a city with a quality of life that cares about raising families and cares about the future of the kids,” Martinez added.

Dispensary supporters have maintained that having a regulated and transparent system such as the dispensary model is the way to go, rather than pushing it back underground.

“I think it’s an unfortunate thing for patients,” said Steve Ackerman, president of the Fort Collins Medical Cannabis Association and owner of Organic Alternatives, as the votes rolled in.

Ackerman has been a long-time advocate of the dispensary model, and he said this was a battle that will have far-reaching consequences that are not yet known.

“It leaves them with no choice but to go to the back allies,” he said.

The issue has grown since a 2000 decision that allowed the use of medical marijuana under a patient-caregiver model where authorized people could grow their own pot or purchase from a licensed grower. A 2009 decision said users of the drug would not be penalized in states where medical marijuana is permitted, and this allowed for the appearance of dispensaries in the state.

Since then, the number of red-card holder –– those eligible for medical marijuana –– has risen from about 500 to more than 8,000 in Larimer County alone.

The dispensary controversy grew as claims of increased usage in schools and higher incidence of marijuana-related crimes were reported by the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

This led to the formation of the Concerned Fort Collins Citizens, a group that sought to ban dispensaries in an effort to reduce the amount of pot in the city.

The group gathered about 7,500 signatures and brought the issue to city council in August. The Council ultimately decided to leave it up to the voters.

“It was the citizens who stood up and said ‘this is what our community is about,’” said Wade Troxell, a Fort Collins city council member and supporter of the dispensary ban.

Troxell added there is still a lot that needs to be addressed regarding the enforcement of marijuana laws, but he said this is a long-overdue decision.

“Frankly, I think the people of Fort Collins have spoken,” Troxell said.

Chase Eckerdt, Associated Students of CSU director of Governmental Affairs, said this election clearly does not signify an end to the marijuana issue in Fort Collins. He added that it demonstrates a key part of student’s limited involvement in local elections, especially surrounding controversial issues.

“Regardless of how students feel about individual issues, imagine what kind of impact we can have in local elections when we choose to show up and vote,” Eckerdt said. “Students have to consider how much they want a say in Fort Collins matters.”

Supporters of dispensaries were obviously upset, but remained persistent in advocating for the use of marijuana as a medicine. They said the next step for safe marijuana use is not known, but they will be ready for another fight if it comes to that.

“I’m surprised,” Ackerman said. “We take what we learned from this battle and prepare for the next.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 4:00 pm

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