Pubdate: Wed, 15 Feb 2012
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Summit Daily News
Author: Caddie Nath, Summit Daily News 


Facing Loss of Local Control in July, County at Last to Tackle Medical

BRECKENRIDGE - Summit County Government ended a more than two-year
hiatus from medical marijuana discussions Tuesday, diving into dense
pool of questions around regulating the sale and cultivation of the
herb in unincorporated areas.

County staff said there are currently few viable places for a medical
marijuana retail location to open its doors in unincorporated Summit
County and suggested the possibility of only allowing grow operations,
a policy that would be unique in Colorado if adopted.

Summit County Commissioners said they needed time to think over the
regulation options - which also deal with complex issues around
zoning, taxing and business requirements - and to talk with the
medical marijuana community and law enforcement.

"I'm not sure I can take all this in and give you direction today,"
Commissioner Thomas Davidson told staff at a work session Tuesday. "I
need some time to think about this."

Deadline looming 

The county has punted on medical marijuana since 2009, keeping a 
sweeping moratorium in place while waiting for the state to come out 
with a final policy framework, officials said.

But now the county government is on a deadline: Local jurisdictions
that do not implement regulations by July 1 will lose the local option
altogether and will default to the state's policies.

The federal government recently cracked down on medical marijuana
centers operating within 1,000 feet of a school, forcing them to close
their doors or relocate by the end of this month.

County officials said they didn't want to permit centers close to
schools or residential areas where they might be shut down by the
state or federal government, and Keystone and Copper Mountain will not
allow medical marijuana centers in buildings they own - eliminating
most options for retail locations in unincorporated Summit County.

But medical marijuana retailers, who are required to cultivate 70
percent of their product themselves, have expressed an interest in
setting up grow operations in the county.

"We have a huge need for additional (grow) space," Jerry Olson, who
owns Medical Marijuana of the Rocky Mountains in Frisco, told
commissioners Tuesday. "I think these are all wonderful ideas.
There're a lot of farms and outbuildings all over the county that
wouldn't even be recognizable as a grow operation."

Two local medical marijuana centers currently operate grow centers on
the Front Range, while most of the others cultivate on-site.

County officials are considering a policy allowing only grow
operations in unincorporated areas, but because the plan would ban
retail businesses, the county wouldn't receive sales tax revenue from
the medical marijuana industry. In Frisco, Silverthorne and
Breckenridge, that income is used to offset administration costs
associated with the industry.

Commissioners were also concerned about the aesthetics of warehouses
housing grow operations in the Lower Blue River area and the
possibility of attracting outside grow centers that would ship their
products to other parts of the state.

Commissioners are expected to continue to discuss regulations among
themselves and with local planning commissions in the coming weeks.
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