Medical marijuana: Pitkin and Summit Counties (finally) enact MMJ rules

Both Pitkin and Summit County are finally getting around to making laws governing medical marijuana shops.

This move comes more than two years after the first medical marijuana centers opened in the counties.

As we reported in January, the handful of medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Pitkin County have been living in legal limbo. Without county approval for their specific businesses, the state won't issue them licenses.

What's been the holdup? Pitkin County attorney John Ely's fear that adopting medical marijuana regulations would put the county in direct violation of federal law. "The conduct that is contemplated in the statutes of Colorado is illegal," Ely told commissioners this past winter. "I don't think the county should be in the position of abetting the violation of federal law."

But now, Colorado has stated that local regulations must be in place by July 1 or shops in areas without those regulations will be forced to close. To prevent local business owners from going under, Pitkin County commissioners are at last getting in gear. Draft rules first discussed at a work session today would create a $1,000 license for medical marijuana businesses, including cultivation centers and infused-product manufacturers. License renewal would run about $500.

Interestingly, any center with complaints against it would have to pay $1,000 for a public hearing with the commissioners before it would be allowed to purchase its license for another $1,000. According to the draft, that fee structure is based on what other municipalities and counties have charged, not what it would cost Pitkin County to do the work.

The proposed language also prohibits dispensaries from being within 1,000 feet of daycare centers and schools (with the exception of colleges), and bans MMJ businesses in mixed-used developments.

The proposed rules also address many of the legal issues that concerned Ely back in January. Although the county's insurance provider has said it will not cover criminal activities, Ely notes that the company "will not provide specific coverage determination on general scenarios" for things that have not yet happened.

According to the county attorney's office, the rules need to be formally approved at two board meetings next month in order to become official before July 1.

Summit County found itself in the same situation as Pitkin and adopted new regulations for commercial and residential marijuana grows last Tuesday. County officials put off writing marijuana regulations for years while waiting for the state to finalize its rules, reports the Summit Daily News.

Medical marijuana centers in Summit cannot operate within 1,000 feet of schools, including universities, and must be at least fifty feet from residential properties. The rules also cover things like signage, operating hours and other typical municipality do's and don'ts for MMCs.

But the Summit County commissioners also passed somewhat unusual regulations for residential grows. Caregivers and patients with a state-allowed legal grow must now register with the county each year. A fee schedule was proposed, but according to the Summit County Clerk's office, officials are still deciding on what it should look like. The Daily News puts the cost the county at more than $400 per license.

More from our Marijuana archive: "CU-Boulder students plead not guilty to 4/20 trespassing, attorney decries "fascist" tactics" and "Medical marijuana: State wastes $100K when caregiver beats rap?"

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes