Monday, January 16, 2012

UPDATE: El Paso County speaks out on MMJ letters

Posted by on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Update, 12:06 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18: Clark e-mailed an update to her previous comments on the county's policy, via the county attorney.

• Federal regulations require the MMJ business be located more than 1000 feet from a school;
• Our ordinance require the MMJ business be located more than 500 feet from a school;
• I looked up the businesses that received the "Federal letter of being within 1000 ft. zone" - NONE of those business are in the unincorporated County.

——— Original Post, 5:15 p.m., Monday, Jan. 16 ———

Or, not so much the county, as County Commissioner and vice chair Sallie Clark. She was the first in a number of local officials the Indy contacted last week for their reaction to the letters sent out last week by U.S. Attorney John Walsh telling 23 medical marijuana centers within 1,000 feet of schools to close within 45 days or potentially face prosecution.

Of course, Monday being what it was, government officials were a little hard to get ahold of, so we'll just start with Clark, who began by saying she was glad the county supported a 1,000-foot 500-foot barrier from the beginning and, as a resident of West Colorado Avenue where a large portion of centers are located, wouldn't have minded if the city had as well. (The city's limit is 400 feet.)

"Not to point fingers, but the city, when they didn’t do anything — I mean, they didn’t really set their regulations, they just started letting them open without putting something in place for zoning," she says by phone. "And I think they would have done a lot better had they adopted what the county had adopted. But that didn’t happen, and here we are today.

"Because when we wrote our regulations, we only allowed the dispensaries in, essentially, industrial areas, very restrictive commercial areas, and didn’t allow them close to schools."

Additionally, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners has something of a habit of putting out non-binding resolutions on most anything it wants to share its opinion on, and I asked Clark if she would support a similar resolution condemning the federal government for overlooking Colorado's sovereignty.

"I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other," she says. "All I know is that I believe that we needed to follow the state law and put something into place and I think that our rules and regulations essentially, probably, meet that litmus test of what the federal government is cracking down on today."

The county commissioner and longtime local politician then offered a little rebuke, after all.

"I understand what you’re saying: You’re saying we are constantly putting our foot down and saying ‘We don’t like federal regulations — we don’t want you overstepping your bounds,’" she says with a short laugh. "And frankly I think it probably is overstepping the bounds of the federal government to start cracking down specifically on this item. But at this point I don’t know if we would go so far as to do a resolution, or just see what happens between the federal government and the state talking to each other and figuring out what the best rule for the counties are under state law."

We've also made calls to Clark's fellow commissioner Amy Lathen, Mayor Steve Bach, City Council President Scott Hente and District Attorney Dan May. Look for more in this Thursday's Independent.

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