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Marijuana Working Group close to solidifying new policy recommendations 

Cannabiz

click to enlarge Should this licensing cap pass, there would be no new dispensaries. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Should this licensing cap pass, there would be no new dispensaries.

The city's Medical Marijuana Working Group has been cooking up some new policy recommendations to send to Council for consideration as soon as next month.

We reported in CannaBiz on Oct. 5 that a licensing cap was on the table. Well, it still is and now we've got the specifics.

The draft ordinance obtained by CannaBiz would cap the number of licensed medical marijuana locations at 211 starting May 25. That's the number the city has on file now and, given the licensing moratorium, the number the city will have on file then (assuming nobody lets go of theirs before then).

There are some caveats in the ordinance. For instance, if you hold a medical marijuana center license, you could still apply to co-locate a commercial grow and/or an edibles manufacturing facility. Or, if you hold a license and want to change locations, all parts of your operations at that site would have to move together or those license(s) left at the prior location would be surrendered. Valid, active licenses could be transferred to another person if he or she meets licensing requirements.

The long and short of it is: no new medical marijuana centers. That's the goal of working group member Tom Scudder — the manager of A Wellness Center, a dispensary on Fillmore Street, who initially proposed the cap. He feels the local medical marijuana market is already "oversaturated," so a cap would protect small businesses' hard-won sales as well as their ability to pay decent wages, do charitable work in the community and provide steep discounts to patients in need.

Members of the working group will distribute the draft ordinance among their constituents and return with feedback at their next meeting on Feb. 7. (That meeting is open to the public, though the location has yet to be determined. We'll keep you posted.)

The working group could choose to tweak the proposed ordinance before presenting it to City Council at its Feb. 27 work session. There is no opportunity for public comment at that meeting, but the public is welcome to speak on the issue at Council's regular meeting the next day.

Another proposal coming down the pike has been anticipated by those who stay plugged into the Springs' "gray market." This legislation — one part zoning and one part criminal code — would reiterate what's already codified at the state level: that you can't sell marijuana under the guise of a "gift."

While the proposal is in its infancy, draft language would make it a zoning violation "to transfer or permit the transfer of marijuana or marijuana concentrate at no cost to a person if the transfer is in any way related to remuneration for any other service or product."

A handful of head shops in the city operate on this business model: You walk in, buy a lighter or a pack of rolling papers or some other kind of paraphernalia at an absurdly high price, then (voila!) you get gifted some weed. In November, a head shop on the Eastside that allegedly does this gifting dance got raided by police. But local law enforcement say they could better prevent this gray market activity with a municipal — in addition to the existing state — law.

Bridget Dandaraw-Seritt, who represents patients' interests on the working group, says via email she sees these shops that gift weed as "participating in civil disobedience since El Paso County voted in recreational [marijuana, through Amendment 64], but the city banned it."

Of course, implicit in the characterization as civil disobedience is the admission that, yes, they do flout the law.

"Most moderate to severe patients generally don't use those shops because of cost, but like with the clubs, [prohibition] stands to hurt unregistered patients," she added.

By the time these two proposals, in addition to discussion about licensing marijuana testing facilities, come up again, there may be two new members in the working group. City Council Administrator Eileen Gonzalez says she'll be interviewing about 15 applicants for the opportunity to represent the cannabis industry in the working group that aims to solidify — and pass — these proposals before the moratorium expires in May. The group likely will keep working afterward, possibly meeting less frequently.

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