By this evening, Grand Junction residents should know if the majority of residents voted to ban medical marijuana businesses within city limits. Since a prohibition against retail sales in unincorporated Mesa County passed last fall, such an outcome is a done deal, right? Not so, says ban opponent Cristin Groves, who's "cautiously optimistic" about a positive outcome for the local MMJ community.
Groves, the executive board member of Mesa County Constitution Advocates, notes that Grand Junction voters who opposed last November's ban "were just shy of 50-50. And that vote happened so fast, we didn't really have a chance to go out and get supporters registered and campaign against it." This time, in contrast, "we've done quite a bit of work identifying supporters and making sure they're registered. We even started a voter registration drive. Now, we just have to get supporters to turn out and vote."
Presumably, plenty of them already have, since all voting is being done through the mail this time around. However, registered voters who still want to take part have until 5 p.m. today to pick up a ballot at the Mesa County Courthouse, 544 Rood Avenue. Ballots can also be dropped off there and at three other locations, including the Department of Motor Vehicles office at Mesa Mall, prior to 5 p.m. this evening.
At present, Groves says, there are eight medical marijuana centers in Grand Junction proper, including operations such as Heavenly Healing. "They went through all the 1284 hoops," she says, referencing the regulatory measure then-Governor Bill Ritter signed into law last June. "If this measure goes through, they will be closed and there will not be any others."
Groves rejects the idea that the medical marijuana businesses have caused problems in town, citing statistics showing that crime in general and violations associated with marijuana have been on the decline in the area. In her view, then, supporters see it as "more of a moral issue." Not that she thinks Grand Junction residents can be stereotyped as conservative. "Quite a diverse group of people live here," she allows, "and we're hoping that diversity will come through in the election."
If it doesn't, Groves says dispensary owners, most of whom have not yet recouped their initial investments, will look at all options, including a lawsuit. However, she admits that a judge's rejection of a temporary injunction against a Loveland dispensary ban a couple of weeks ago makes that prospect something of a long shot.
As for the number of patients who might be impacted by a ban, Groves says the state health department estimates that there are 2,500 in Mesa County -- a figure she considers low. Moreover, MMJ prohibitions in neighboring areas, such as Delta County, mean that many patients on the Western Slope come to Grand Junction for their medication. With the closing of dispensaries, all of them would have to scramble to find a caregiver -- "and since caregivers can only have five patients, it will be difficult for a lot of them to find someone to grow their medicine," Groves believes.
Below, see several Mesa County Constitution Advocates videos featuring patients talking about their experiences with medical marijuana.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana dispensary bans pass in Aurora, Dougco: Fuel for legalization fight?"