County voters to decide on medical marijuana

Posted 6/20/10

Voters will shape the future of medical marijuana in Douglas County this November, with a ballot question targeting unincorporated areas of the …

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County voters to decide on medical marijuana


Voters will shape the future of medical marijuana in Douglas County this November, with a ballot question targeting unincorporated areas of the county.

Douglas County commissioners are poised to adopt a resolution to ask county residents if they want to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Douglas County.

At a June 16 staff meeting, commissioners gave the green light to the county’s legal staff to draft a resolution slated for a June 22 adoption. The resolution extends the county’s moratorium on dispensaries through Nov. 2, when voters will decide whether Douglas County is a marijuana friendly community.

If voters elect to allow dispensaries in Douglas County, the county will extend the moratorium as it begins the process of drafting medical marijuana regulations, said Lance Ingalls, Douglas County attorney. Should voters say yes to medical marijuana, a moratorium remains in place until regulations are adopted, according to the draft resolution.

If Douglas County residents open the door for medical marijuana dispensaries, any moratorium is lifted by July 1, 2011, the state’s deadline to have regulations in place. Commissioners will have until then to draft regulations, Ingalls said.

The county will additionally revisit its present zoning restrictions on dispensaries to confirm whether or not it aligns with Colorado’s 80 pages of statutes in the Medical Marijuana Code. On March 30, the county adopted zoning regulations to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries to a handful of industrial parcels in unincorporated Douglas County.

“If the zoning regulations already adopted are deemed insufficient because of something in [state statute], we are directed to review and propose any changes to the board,” Ingalls said.

The election will be the first in recent history to pose a ballot question to all of unincorporated Douglas County, said Jack Arrowsmith, Douglas County clerk and recorder. Most county-wide ballot questions include all county residents, whether or not they live within the limits of a municipality.

The clerk and recorder’s office is charged with creating a ballot to isolate those residents who live within an incorporated portion of the county, Arrowsmith said.

The ballot question will not be presented to residents of incorporated Parker, Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Larkspur, Castle Pines North and pockets of the county that include Littleton and Aurora.

Residents of Parker already know the outcome of the medical marijuana question, with a ban adopted by Parker town council at about the time Douglas County opted for an election. Castle Rock remains under a moratorium as Castle Rock’s town council debates whether to send the question to a public vote.

The county’s decision to send it to the public reflects a longtime tradition in Douglas County, said Wendy Holmes, Douglas County public affairs director.

“The commissioners want the people to decide,” Holmes said. “That’s the culture here.”

The people who will decide if Douglas County will allow the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana include residents of Highlands Ranch, Castle Pines Village, Franktown and all of rural Douglas County, Arrowsmith said.

At present, Douglas County is home to a handful of medical marijuana dispensaries whose future is uncertain, said commissioner Jack Hilbert. Hilbert attended a meeting for commissioners from across the state where the conversation revolved around the issue of how existing dispensaries are impacted by the outcome of an election.

If voters decide to close the door on medical marijuana dispensaries, commissioners across the state are wary of getting caught up in an illegal taking of any dispensaries already in business.

“We just don’t want to end up in a taking issue,” Hilbert said. “It would all be open to interpretation; there would certainly be court action.”

If medical marijuana gets a stamp of approval from Douglas County voters, existing dispensaries will have until July 1, 2011, to comply with any county regulations adopted, Ingalls said. Otherwise, Ingalls does not know how existing dispensaries could be impacted.

Regardless of the outcome, commissioners across the state know the issue could result in lengthy legal arguments.

“They say this [medical marijuana debate] is going to be a lawyer’s dream,” Hilbert said.


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