Pubdate: Fri, 25 May 2012
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2012 Aspen Times


We'd like to commend the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners for its 
informal decision Tuesday to give the county manager the 
responsibility for issuing licenses for medical marijuana operations. 
A formal decision is likely next month.

Until now, the county has left medical marijuana issues alone as long 
as an operation met state requirements. For nearly two years, county 
leaders have batted around a few ideas on the subject but never 
seemed in a hurry to reach consensus.

The county's legal counsel also was concerned that by sanctioning 
such businesses, the county would be risking prosecution from federal 
authorities. As we all know, Uncle Sam still holds that marijuana - 
even in medicinal form - is illegal, even if some of those 
whacked-out states condone it.

The county's reluctance to get directly involved in licensing and 
regulation amounted to silently passing the buck, and state 
regulators had enough of it. Early this year, the Medical Marijuana 
Enforcement Division sought compliance with laws passed by the 
Colorado Assembly in 2010 that said counties had to adopt rules and 
set a deadline for compliance.

We appreciate that commissioners (a majority, anyway) chose County 
Manager Jon Peacock to issue the licenses instead of deciding to 
leave each licensing case up to them. As Rachel Richards pointed out, 
the county's industry then would become politicized. The medical 
marijuana industry helps a lot of people in the community, and the 
last thing it needs is to fall victim to a highly charged atmosphere 
and petty public controversies -the sort that media entities and 
political opportunists love to get their hands on.

While we are confident that most commissioners will follow the 
direction the board set for itself earlier this week, we also might 
suggest that the county go no further than to issue licenses for a 
fee and pursue commonality with only what state law mandates. Some 
unincorporated communities in Pitkin County have expressed an 
interest in banning such businesses, whether dispensaries or grow 
houses or both, a move that would serve to pit villages and neighbors 
against one another - politicizing the process and further dividing the county.

The commissioners should officially approve this simple step of 
administrative control on licensing before July 1 and then turn away 
from the prospect of special zoning areas or village-by-village 
control of business locations. Current zoning allows for commercial 
and agricultural businesses, and the marijuana-healing industry 
deserves the rights afforded to other U.S. small businesses.

Residents countywide should be of one mind on the issue and set 
another great local example for the rest of humankind. Bob Marley 
said it best: Let's get together and feel all right.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom