Moffat County Commission considering putting pot’s future in voters’ hands |

Moffat County Commission considering putting pot’s future in voters’ hands

Mathers: potential ballot measure hinges on future state regulations

Brian Smith

The Moffat County Commission is considering leaving the fate of medical marijuana dispensaries in the county up to voters in the November election.

At its regular meeting Tuesday, the commission discussed developing regulations surrounding the medical marijuana industry with county attorney Jeremy Snow.

On June 10, the commission extended its moratorium on dispensaries in unincorporated parts of the county for six months.

At the time, the commission said it extended the moratorium to wait and see what rules and regulations were developed from Colorado House Bill 10-1284.

During the June 10 meeting, commissioner Audrey Danner requested the commission meet with Snow in July to hear an update on the development of state regulations.

Snow said Tuesday that the state has not drafted comprehensive rules as a result of the bill, which Gov. Bill Ritter signed June 7 and took effect July 1.

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The commission asked Snow to draft a ballot question and organize a schedule to let the county know of the deadlines it would need to meet to place the issue in front of voters.

The potential ballot question would ask county voters if they would favor banning dispensaries in the county, Snow said.

Commissioner Tom Gray said drafting a ballot question doesn't mean the county will actually place the item on the ballot, but rather "preserve the opportunity."

"It just leaves the options open," he said after the meeting. "We need to see what the state is going to do and we need to get a place in line just in case it seems like the best option is to go to the voters."

Commissioner Tom Mathers said the progress of state rules and regulations surrounding the industry will play a role in the decision the commission makes.

"I guess what we are waiting for is that we want to see some rules and regulations come out of the state to give us some guidelines," he said after the meeting. "And should those not come, we might just put it out to the voters."

The option to place the issue before voters is one of several outlined by House Bill 10-1284.

The bill gives counties the option to adhere to state regulations or create its own regulations based on the bill, Snow said.

The regulations the county can create can be no less stringent than the state's, but can be altered to the point of prohibition against everyone except caregivers or licensed medical marijuana consumers, Snow said.

The commission also discussed potential lawsuits the state may face in the coming months as result of the bill's passing.

Snow said opponents of the bill may file a "facial challenge," which challenges the bill's state constitutionality.

"There is certainly a sense among other county attorneys and quite frankly, I probably agree with them, that there is going to be a lawsuit out of this, one way or the other, as soon as someone bans (dispensaries)," Snow said.

"By the time it gets into September, we might have heard whether or not there is a lawsuit that you can't ban them anyways," Gray said after the meeting. "So, there is no use going to voters to ban something if it is illegal."

Snow said he knew of at least five counties considering the idea of putting the issue on the ballot, but the majority of the counties are still using moratoriums.

"I would say that I think the majority are waiting to see," he said. "I'd say that the overwhelming majority is the people relying on the moratoriums."

The commission has until July 23 to notify county election officials if it wants to put the matter on the ballot, county elections supervisor Stephanie Beckett said.

In other action, the Moffat County Commission:

• Approved, 3-0, meeting minutes from April 20, May 4 and 25, and June 10.

• Approved, 3-0, a treasurer’s monthly report.

• Approved, 3-0, a letter to the Bureau of Land Management regarding a free use permit for refuge pit No. 1 to expand the pit to include a 10-acre parcel north of the existing pit.

• Approved, 3-0, a social services department electronic funds transfer and payroll.

• Approved, 3-0, a personnel requisition for a part-time, seasonal, county fair assistant.

• Approved, 3-0, a landfill engineering contract with Weaver-Boos for $9,500 through 2010.

• Approved, 3-0, the Clayton minor subdivision in which an 18,828-acre parcel will be subdivided into three lots.

• Approved, 3-0, the Pietrick exemption in which 10 acres will be exempted off of the original 36.59-acre parcel.

• Approved, 3-0, a conditional use permit for the construction, operation and maintenance of about 10.9 miles of gas gathering and production liquid pipeline with Entek Energy.

• Heard a report from County Assessor Suzanne Brinks on the assessed value of the county to date and a report on the tax protests filed and action taken.

• Heard a monthly report from the road and bridge department.

• Heard an update from Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Director Darcy Trask on its “Listening to Business” survey.

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