Upon hearing that a local man plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Craig, residents and community leaders seem split in their opinions.
Although many said they are concerned about keeping marijuana away from children and those who would consume it recreationally, they also expressed an open mind toward marijuana's medical benefits.
Matt Beckett, director of the Moffat County Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said he would like to be involved in city discussions about how to regulate dispensaries but that he has seen medical marijuana's benefits.
"We would want some requirements about responsible ownership and making sure it was nowhere near schools or places kids hang out," Beckett said. "Personally, I don't have anything against the medical use of marijuana. I had a grandfather that had cancer, and they prescribed it for appetite. It definitely has uses."
The Craig City Council plans to have two meetings about the issue Tuesday evening, one during a public workshop at 5:30 p.m. and another during its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Shaun Hadley, the resident interested in opening a local dispensary with his business partner from Longmont, plans to address the council during its regular meeting.
Both meetings will occur at Craig City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St.
Other people besides Beckett plan to be involved in the process.
Doug Wood, pastor of Craig Christian Church, said he thinks marijuana has medical uses, but not many.
Complicating the issue is that the state's regulatory system makes it easy for someone to fraudulently obtain marijuana, Wood said.
"If it's truly a medical situation, I wouldn't have a problem with it," he said. "In different communities, I've seen it abused in the past."
Wood added that he and the church plan to closely watch what happens, and if it seems a dispensary isn't necessary in Craig, he'd like the community to avoid opening one.
Not all residents plan to be as involved, however.
Joel Sheridan, board chairman for Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse, said his organization wants to focus its efforts on methamphetamine and does not have a position on medical marijuana.
"If we tried to tackle everything, we wouldn't be able to do anything," Sheridan said.
He added that he personally thinks marijuana does not seem to be as threatening to people, their families and communities as meth, though he's also not convinced marijuana has any medicinal value.
State Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, somewhat agreed with Sheridan's view, but he said there is ample evidence that marijuana can be dangerous as a gateway drug, as well.
Either way, he does not plan to introduce any new legislation during the 2010 session to further regulate medicinal marijuana, though the current system seems to put a burden on local communities.
The state has no regulations governing so-called caregivers - those selected by marijuana patients to grow and supply their marijuana - or dispensaries, such as the one planned in Craig.
Since the State Board of Health rejected a motion July 20 to limit the number of marijuana patients one person could have, larger scale dispensaries have popped up across the state, said Mark Salley, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment spokesman.
Without a limit on the number of patients a caregiver can supply, it seems to be more viable for caregivers to open dispensary storefronts for larger numbers of customers, Salley said.
White said he doesn't think the Legislature has the power to do anything more with medical marijuana.
"I don't think we have the authority to regulate something the federal government classifies as illegal," the senator said.
At the same time, he knows marijuana dispensaries are not a small issue.
"It seems like most towns across my district are getting into the same thing," White said. "It's not something unique to Craig. It's everywhere right now."
Medical marijuana itself is not new to Northwest Colorado.
The Department of Health reports there are 12 registered marijuana patients in Moffat County, as well as 34 in Routt County and seven in Rio Blanco County.
Although some Craig physicians did not return phone calls or refused to comment, Dr. Joel Miller, of High Country Medical, said he has recommended "a couple of people" for medical marijuana in the past.
"If the person has the right indicators, those that are listed in the law like glaucoma or pain, it works really well," Miller said.
He added he thinks the state system allows many people to consume marijuana recreationally instead of for specific treatments.
Still, he said he thinks a local marijuana dispensary could be valuable to some.
"It'd be a good idea for the people who need it," Miller said. "For them, it'd be a good thing."