While approving the ordinance, council also banned commercial cultivation operations as well as the manufacture of medical-marijuana infused products. The council then put teeth in the ordinance by approving penalties for violations to include fines or possible imprisonment.
Before voting on the measure, the board heard a report from District Attorney Dan May on crime statistics related to marijuana. “Marijuana does impact kids in the community,” May said.
From 2009 to 2010, the crime rate in the state increased by 20 to 40 percent as did the use of marijuana by teenagers. The drop-out rate of students due to marijuana has also increased by 20 to 40 percent. Of students expelled in the state, 50 percent were marijuana-related, May said, citing a report released by the Colorado’s Attorney General John Suthers.
In 2010 in El Paso County, there were 31 burglaries, three robberies and one homicide, all related to marijuana, May added. “There are 300-600 cases a month statewide, related to marijuana,” he said.
The state has 17,500 physicians and DOs and 120,000 registered medical marijuana patients. Of those 120,000 patients 15 percent of them have received their prescriptions from a select 15 doctors, May said. “Eight of those physicians are not in good standing,” he added.
Since the statistics were gathered, the legislature has tightened regulations that include the requirement that patients must have an established relationship with the prescribing physician.
Enforcement costs money, May said, which counteracts revenue gained from taxing sales at dispensaries.
In addition to May’s report, Debbie Upton, coordinator of North Teller Build a Generation, read a letter from the board supporting the ban. In part, the letter states: “The use of marijuana directly contributes to delinquency, school dropout rates and pregnancy.”
Arguing for defeat of the ban was Mike Parish, a columnist for the Mountain Jackpot. Obviously in pain, Parish was emotional about the positive results he’s had from medical marijuana, as far as treating his ongoing pain from an undisclosed illness. “Your arguments are one-sided,” he said. “Your children aren’t buying marijuana from dispensaries, they’re buying it from someone else.”
The council had varying reasons for their vote. Dave Turley, for instance, said his vote reflected his values as well as those of his constituents, many of whom had called him. “I really appreciate your input, Mike,” he said to Parish. “But I get concerned about the looseness and the control on some of this stuff.”
The decision should be made from a business rather than a moral viewpoint, cautioned Mayor Steve Randolph to the council.
Jon DeVaux noted that if the council approved the ban, the vote would not impact caregivers.
While Terry Harrison eventually voted to approve it, he expressed concern that the council may be impeding business opportunities. “If we approve the ordinance are we sending a message that we don’t want business?” he said. “I’m pro-business, so this is a real struggle for me.”
What about changing the ordinance in the future? asked George Parkhurst. “Can a wiser council reverse or change the ordinance?” he said. “It bothers me that this is outside of pharmacies (what they can sell).”
Eric Smith considered the issue a conundrum. “We regulate businesses all the time; it’s a slippery slope when we ask what’s legal and what’s not,” he said.
As far as the cost of enforcement goes, Woodland Park Police Chief Bob Larson offered a rough estimate that one-fourth of an officer’s salary would be devoted to handling marijuana cases.
Despite varied concerns, the council voted unanimously to approve the ban.
Not finished with the topic of marijuana, the council was nonetheless charged with addressing the growing of the plant by patients and caregivers. Under Colorado law, caregivers are allowed to treat five patients and grow up to six plants.
Randolph suggested the council look at limited regulations. “We do not want to supersede the intent and spirit of Amendment 20,” he said, referring to the vote that legalized medical marijuana in 2000.
The council highlighted problems that could come up in neighborhoods where caregivers cultivate marijuana such as increased traffic, light pollution and robberies. Regulating authority is limited, however. “You can’t inquire about the number of plants,” said city attorney Erin Smith.
With no decisive opinion, the council directed Erin Smith to draw up options for regulating the plant for local caregivers and patients. It will be presented in an executive session.
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