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Paging Amy Lathen

Last weekend's Gazette opinion piece from Amy Lathen has taken on a life of its own.

In it, the El Paso County commissioner makes several questionable statements. For instance: "In 2008 ... the Obama administration declared that, within states with MMJ laws, there would no longer be any federal enforcement of marijuana laws." Actually, in 2009, the Department of Justice said it wouldn't prosecute individual patients who were in "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws."

But then there was this: "As admitted to repeatedly by the advocates of the dispensaries, the goal is legalized marijuana," Lathen writes. "Our Libertarian friends, like Jeff Wright in a letter to the editor on Aug. 31, Councilman Sean Paige and Gazette editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen believe in legalization of marijuana."

Paige, for his part, was apparently unaware of his passion for legalization.

"Commissioner Lathen struggles in this piece to coherently explain her own position on medical marijuana," he says online. "I'd ask that she refrain from explaining mine."

We spoke by phone to Lathen and Paige on Tuesday.

"I'm happy to call myself a Libertarian, but I'm not some doctrinaire person. I think through the issues just like everybody else, and at this point I don't support complete legalization of marijuana," Paige says. "But, given the voters' will as expressed in Amendment 20, I do support respecting the rights of those patients, and I think the dispensary model is constitutional."

Any idea where the commissioner got her information?

"I don't know! She's never talked to me about it. I don't have a clue what she's basing her information on," Paige says. "I don't think she has a clue what she's basing her information on. It's typical of the misinformation that is flying around on this issue, especially from the anti-dispensary side."

For her part, Lathen says she heard Paige profess a pro-legalization philosophy at a previous MMJ debate.

Regardless, the issue remains unresolved, as Paige has requested "a written correction and apology from the commissioner, in print, as soon as possible."

"I want to have an honest debate; I think it's an important debate to have," he says. "But you don't start out an honest debate by misrepresenting somebody's position."

Zoning in

In his current draft regulations, senior city planner Steve Tuck calls for medical marijuana centers to be limited to commercial and industrial zones, and for a 400-foot distance rule from K-through-12 schools, residential child-care facilities, and drug and alcohol treatment facilities. At 8:30 a.m., next Thursday, Sept. 16, those zoning and land use ideas will be up for discussion at the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (2880 International Circle, pprbd.org). It's the only public meeting that the Colorado Springs Planning Commission will hold before presenting a recommendation to City Council.

"We've been working with several groups, including the Medical Cannabis Council, and CONO [Council of Neighbors and Organizations] and others, trying to meet, and trying to figure out things, and we've made some progress," says Tuck.

Tuck goes on to say that among the three city MMJ license categories — center, infused products, or optional grow facility — roughly 10 licensees are in potential violation of the pending regulations, and would be forced to move, or close.

Dave Munger, president of CONO and candidate for mayor, told the Gazette he'd prefer a larger space barrier. He was quoted as saying, "We think 1,000 feet is an acceptable sort of distance or setback."

Bud shake

• Last week, the Boulder County Sheriff's Office discovered more than 7,500 marijuana plants growing on land owned by the U.S. Forest Service near Lyons. The plants were airlifted out by the Colorado National Guard, and destroyed. Officials estimated the haul's street value at roughly $1 million.

On an interesting and refreshing note, authorities declined to tie the find to medical marijuana. Cmdr. Rick Brough, speaking to Westword: "It's speculation on my part, but with the size of this grow ... these people probably weren't trying to be caregivers."

• As of Thursday, Sept. 9, it's been 122 days since seven grows were searched by the Colorado Springs Police Department. At the time, no arrests were made, and as of this writing, no charges have been filed by the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office. The grows were searched at taxpayer cost with the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and two Border Patrol agents using heat-imaging technology.

Send MMJ news to bryce@csindy.com.

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