Last month, the Fort Collins city council considered passing an emergency moratorium against new medical marijuana operations -- only to decide that this action wasn't such an emergency after all.
A couple of weeks later, however, the council opted for just such a moratorium -- until March 26, by which time new medical marijuana ordinances and regulations are scheduled to be in place.
Terri Lynn, a caregiver who operates as a private delivery service under the name Natural Alternatives For Health, attended the meeting. And while she opposed the moratorium in part because she feels it gives an unfair advantage to current dispensaries that are more about what she calls "counter-culture" than actual patients, she feels confident the council can come up with rules "we can all live with."
According to Lynn, the turnout for the meeting was much smaller than it was for the November 17 session -- perhaps forty folks, including the council, as opposed to around one hundred a couple of weeks back. In addition, she says, "the presentations by city staff were much shorter. Essentially, they stripped out a lot of the language that had to do with the emergency moratorium.
"The staff definitely argued that we need to have the moratorium," she goes on. "One of the council members, Wade Troxell, argued that the three-plus months until the 26th wasn't enough time. He thought we should wait until the state does its thing. But everybody in the audience was saying, 'We think we can live with three months -- but we're not comfortable with more than that.'"
The majority of the council agreed, with the exception of David Roy. "He said the moratorium was just one more example of the failed drug-war policy -- the leftovers of fear," Lynn notes. "He said we could write the regulations without having to impose a moratorium. But everybody else voted for it."
As for Lynn, she was concerned by the definition of a medical marijuana dispensary as "a property or structure used to sell, distribute, transmit, give, dispense or otherwise provide marijuana in any manner to patients or primary caregivers pursuat to the authority contained in Amendment 20 to the Colorado constitution and implementing state statutes and administrative regulations, except those properties or structures that are used by an individual primary caregiver to provide marijuana to a single patient." In her view, this wording isn't sufficient to cover the wide variety of growers and providers.
Regarding the impact on already operating medical marijuana outfits, Lynn says, "If you've already got a business license, you're still allowed to conduct business. If you've already got a business license that doesn't specifically talk about marijuana but you've got a sales-tax license, you can continue during the moratorium, but there could be new rules following the adoption of the new ordinance. And any new businesses that have pending applications in the ten days from last night will not be allowed to legally conduct business until after the moratorium is over."
When it comes to the moratorium issue, Lynn sides with Roy -- but for different reasons.
"I would prefer there be no moratorium, because I think it gives an unfair advantage to the status quo, and that's been identified as insufficient in the way it represents quote-unquote real patients. It seems to be focused on the more visible counter-culture aspect. In effect, the moratorium means the players who are already there get to be there instead of new businesses that might be closer to what the city wants to see."
Still, she doesn't feel three months is an unreasonable amount of time for the moratorium, even though it cramps her style to some degree. She'd been hoping to expand her business by opening an office; she currently makes home deliveries to patients rather than having them come to her. She'd hoped to make this happen in February, but now she'll have to wait at least a month or so longer.
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More positively, Lynn was contacted by Fort Collins' deputy city manager, Diane Jones, after she wrote a letter to officials previously published in this space. "They asked if I would be part of the discussion, the planning for regulations and meet with city staff," she reveals, "and I said, 'Yes, I would.' And I've also offered that many of my patients would welcome the opportunity to express their views to staff before they make the rules. I get the feeling some elements think regulations should be about protecting community members from marijuana, but to me, the focus should be on protecting patients and making sure they have a safe way to access medicine."
The get-together between Lynn, her patients and city staffers hasn't been scheduled yet, but it's likely to take place in January, as the council researches the regulations.
In the meantime, she says, "I still remain optimistic based on the tone of the council that they're really not interested in shutting down or preventing medical marijuana businesses. I think they're really going to look at how we make this sustainable and workable for all of the citizens and departments. I'm hopeful that'll be the end result."