Like most city attorneys across the state, Craig attorney Kenny Wohl plans to spend a lot of time in the next several weeks figuring out a way to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
City officials plan to extend a 60-day municipal moratorium on all new dispensaries past its expiration date at the end of October to give Wohl and the City Council more time to consider surrounding issues, City Manager Jim Ferree said.
The second moratorium likely would last another 60 days.
Whatever happens, officials agree two things are certain: The city of Craig will issue operating guidelines for medical marijuana dispensaries, and there is no legal way to prevent dispensaries from opening.
Any new ordinances that prevented such businesses from opening would be discriminatory, and thus probably would be thrown out in court, Wohl said.
However, at least one city councilor wishes he had the power to keep medical marijuana from becoming a business in Craig.
"I'll probably vote no for anything to do with medical marijuana, just on principle," councilor Byron Willems said.
In addition to his stance against dispensaries, Willems has spearheaded an effort to pass a social host ordinance, which would make it a municipal crime to provide a place for underage drinking.
If he could, Willems said he would ban all medical marijuana dispensaries.
"Oh absolutely," he said. "I think most people would agree with me."
Some cities, such as Aurora, have longstanding business license requirements that all new businesses obey local, state and federal laws.
In that case, Aurora has prevented medical marijuana dispensaries from opening, Wohl said, but that case is different from Craig.
Aurora's ordinance has been on the books since before Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in 2000.
Therefore, Wohl thinks Aurora's ordinance could have a chance standing up in court.
However, were Craig to install such a policy now, it probably would be seen as a reaction against a specific industry, in this case medical marijuana.
"It would clearly be discriminatory," Wohl said.
It seems the only way for city officials to set standards for the new industry is through planning and zoning requirements, Wohl added.
Much like local liquor stores are regulated on the manner of their business, the time they are open and the places they can set up shop, Wohl said the city should have ample legal authority to do the same with medical marijuana businesses.
He plans to attend the annual Colorado Municipal League attorneys' conference in Estes Park this weekend, where he and his colleagues can get together and "compare notes."
"Right now, you have maybe 100 home rule cities and 100 different solutions," Wohl said.
At the next council meeting Oct. 13, Wohl plans to give the council several sample ordinances that have either been passed or considered by other city governments regarding medical marijuana.
Hopefully, that will give the city a base of ideas to build on for future zoning regulations, Wohl said.
Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org