Larkspur says “no” to medical marijuana

Residents of the town of Larkspur had their say on the medical marijuana issue and voted to ban the commercial medical marijuana industry in town limits.

The Jan. 25 decision makes Larkspur the latest Douglas County municipality to prohibit medical marijuana centers, optional-premises grow operations and medical marijuana infused products manufacturers. The decision means the town’s sole dispensary, the Larkspur Alternative Medicine Center, will not be eligible to renew its business license when its grace period expires on March 31, said Matt Krimmer, Larkspur town manager.

The Larkspur Alternative Medicine Center was the source of debate when the town began a dialogue about whether to put the medical marijuana issue to a public vote. In August 2010, when the time came for a town council decision, councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Shannon Buss excused herself from the vote because of a conflict of interest.

Buss was initially listed on the business license of the Larkspur medical marijuana dispensary as owner of the dispensary, which does business as Larkspur Herbal Services. Town attorney Scotty Krob informed her that her interest in the dispensary prohibited her from weighing in on the town’s medical marijuana debate.

By the time council voted on whether to send the medical marijuana question to a public vote, Buss excused herself from the table.

“I’m no longer an owner but I still have a financial interest,” she said, as she left the room in advance of the Aug. 5, 2010, public hearing.

Buss opposed the option to send the matter to a public vote and the council decision passed with a 3-2 vote. Town residents approved the measures to prohibit commercial medical marijuana activities in a 2 to 1 vote.

The Larkspur Alternative Medicine Center is now managed by John Cathey, whose sister took over ownership of the store on June 30, 2010, Cathey said. Cathey planned on moving the dispensary from its present location at a cost of about $40,000, he said. He was waiting for the outcome of the town vote before making the investment. When contacted, Cathey hoped to remain open until July 1, the final date dispensaries have to comply with all of the provisions of Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Code.

He was not aware that his business license expired and he would not be given the option to renew his business license.

“Wow,” Cathey said. “That just blows me away.”

Every business in the town of Larkspur has a 90-day grace period, through March 31, to renew a business license that expires on Dec. 31 of the preceding year, Krimmer said. The expiration date is on the face of the business license and it is the responsibility of the business owner to renew a license, Krimmer said.

The town is in the process of sending reminders to those businesses which have yet to renew, but, with the outcome of the vote to prohibit medical marijuana centers, does not intend to send a reminder to the Larkspur Alternative Medicine Center, he said.

“He won’t be getting a notice because we’re not going to be renewing his business license,” Krimmer said.

Upon receiving news that he would not be allowed to renew his business license, Cathey vowed to seek legal counsel to research how to move forward.

“This is a big old can of worms,” he said. “They can’t do that. They should have let us know. We think there’s strange stuff going on over there, we always have.”

Town Mayor Sherilyn West did not anticipate a legal challenge to the town’s vote to prohibit commercial medical marijuana in Larkspur. She was among those councilmembers who supported the decision to send the choice to a public vote.

Should the town face a challenge with a request from the Larkspur dispensary to remain open, West and Krimmer said the town would likely “piggy-back” on the decision from Douglas County commissioners to have a court weigh in on the matter.

County commissioners on Jan. 11 opted to pursue a declaratory judgment from Douglas County District Court. The county is asking the court for an opinion on whether existing dispensaries can remain open in the face of a ban.

“I’m glad it went to a vote,” West said. “Once the state gave us the option to put it to a public vote, I always felt that was the best option. I’m ready to put this behind us.”

The vote in Larkspur leaves the town of Castle Rock as the last remaining municipality to decide on medical marijuana. On the same day Larkspur residents said no to commercial medical marijuana, Castle Rock’s town council gave its final stamp of approval to the ballot language for Castle Rock’s April 5 vote.

Castle Rock residents will be the last to decide if an ordinance to ban commercial medical marijuana operations should be adopted or overturned.

A full copy of the staff report, background, prohibition ordinance and ballot language is available at crgov.com/mmj.

While Larkspur had a single polling place open for its vote, the Castle Rock election will be a mail-in ballot election. Ballots will be sent to registered voters by mid-March, according to a press release from the town of Castle Rock, and are due back to the town by 7 p.m., April 5.

See the vote

With a population of about 234 people, the town of Larkspur sent ballots for the medical marijuana election to 167 registered voters in Larkspur. The town had a 49 percent return rate on its ballots, most of which were votes cast by mail-in ballot. Twenty votes were cast at town hall, the town’s only polling place open for the election.

The outcome of the vote on Larkspur’s three ballot questions:

Shall the town of Larkspur, Colorado prohibit medical marijuana centers? Yes votes – 54; No votes – 28

Shall the town of Larkspur, Colorado prohibit medical marijuana optional premises cultivation operations? Yes – 59; No – 23

Shall the town of Larkspur, Colorado prohibit medical marijuana infused products manufacturers? Yes – 57; No – 25

via : The News Press

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