Amendment 64's passage to spur moratoriums against medical marijuana dispensaries?

The passage of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, has created as much confusion as celebration. Tomorrow in Carbondale, for instance, trustees will weigh a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries that's specifically linked to the measure. An A64 proponent argues that such moves are unnecessary and based on a profound misunderstanding of the amendment.

According to Steamboat Today, Carbondale's town trustee will mull whether to "impose a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries while they sort out of the implications of a provision in voter-approved Amendment 64 that would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to convert their business models to the sale of recreational marijuana."

What worries officials most? In conversation with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington said some local MMCs "have already shown an interest in making the conversion. Town officials are concerned about their ability to process new applications for medical marijuana dispensaries while they are preoccupied with working through the implications of Amendment 64."

Does Harrington want to prevent a flood of applications from entrepreneurs less interested in serving patients than in selling to members of the general public when such commerce becomes legal? Seems so -- but Amendment 64 proponent Brian Vicente sees the potential enactment of a moratorium as a needlessly complex way to deal with the prospect.

"I think this stems from a misunderstanding of medical marijuana laws and Amendment 64 by Carbondale officials," Vicente says. "Amendment 64 allows communities to ban recreational stores at any point -- so we're not forcing communities to allow them. Allowing them is simply an option, just as it is with medical marijuana.

"Our medical marijuana laws don't force communities to have medical marijuana dispensaries. They can ban or limit them at any time. So our current medical marijuana rules and Amendment 64 are parallel laws. And at no point will medical marijuana dispensaries magically shift into retail marijuana stores. That'll take 100 percent buy-in from the local community government."

Decisions about blessing retail stores are hardly imminent. At this point, there's no indication whether or not the U.S. Justice Department will allow Colorado to enact Amendment 64, which contradicts federal marijuana policy. And even if the feds take a hands-off approach, the language in A64 calls for delays to allow a regulatory system to be put in place. For that reason, such outlets can't become a reality before late 2013 or early 2014 at the earliest.

In the meantime, Vicente says, "I would encourage the town government of Carbondale to look at the election results" before deciding to vote in favor of a moratorium. Why? "Amendment 64 passed by a landslide in their community," he stresses. "So for them to limit medical marijuana after the support for Amendment 64 is wildly in contradiction of their constituents."

Whatever the case, he calls the prospect of a moratorium "a strange turn of events."

And you can bet there'll be plenty more of them in relation to Amendment 64.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64 approved: Mason Tvert celebrates, John Hickenlooper talks Cheetos."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts