County OKs halt on medical marijuana dispensaries

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At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Moffat County Commission approved its 2010 budget, which includes a $3.4 million decrease in governmental revenues from 2009.

For an in-depth look at the 2010 county budget, see the Thursday

edition of the Daily Press.

— The Moffat County Com­mission did not need extra time to consider a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated parts of the county.

The commission approved, 3-0, a resolution at its meeting Tuesday that bans such businesses for six months or until the Colorado Legislature creates a framework for dispensaries to operate under, whichever comes first.

“I would like to, if we can, put a number on this and adopt it today,” Commissioner Tom Mathers said, as he looked down at a proposed resolution drafted by County Attorney Kathleen Taylor. “I don’t think we need to sit around for another week or two and talk about this.”

The commission felt confident that no dispensaries exist on county land because all county land is zoned agricultural.

To operate a dispensary in the county, a person would have to apply for a conditional use permit to run a commercial business in an agricultural zoning or apply for a zoning change.

No one has taken either of those steps for a medical marijuana dispensary, officials said.

The county’s decision will not affect a municipal ordinance about medical marijuana dispensaries passed last month by the Craig City Council because Craig is a home rule city.

The city’s ordinance restricts dispensary operations by limiting them to certain commercial and industrial zones, preventing them from being within 100 feet of a residence or 500 feet of a school and requiring a $1,500 application fee to pay for criminal background checks of anyone looking to open a medical marijuana dispensary.

Councilor Byron Willems asked the rest of the council to consider an ordinance banning all marijuana dispensaries inside Craig city limits, but his request was never voted on.

Other councilors cited the possibility of being sued — because medical marijuana and the current system is legal according to state law — as a reason why they favored local regulations to an out-right ban.

Willems was the only council member to vote against the city’s marijuana ordinance.

Before the council passed its regulations, the city also instituted two 60-day moratoriums on dispensaries, much the same as the county passed Tuesday. The moratoriums were the longest allowed by the city charter.

The county has greater latitude in the length of its moratorium because it is governed under different state statutes.

Commissioner Tom Gray said the county’s decision is not an attempt to indefinitely suspend medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in the county.

“We can just use a moratorium forever just as a way to not deal with it,” he said. “Six months is reasonable because we have information that the Legislature may act on this.”

The county’s resolution expressly permits medical marijuana cultivation for personal use. It only applies to commercial sales. The county attorney said the commission’s decision mirrors other counties in the state, which have installed moratoriums from two to six months. The six-month timeframe allows the moratorium to last through the next legislative session, Taylor said.

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