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Boulder Approves Rules For Medical Marijuana Industry

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After months of contentious debate, the Boulder City Council late Tuesday night voted for a second time to approve a sweeping set of regulations for the medical marijuana industry.

But the decision still isn't final.

In a rare move, the council decided to hold a third public reading of the proposed ordinance, which would create a licensing system for marijuana businesses and set various operating requirements. That hearing is scheduled for May 18.

Mayor Susan Osborne led the charge to support the ordinance, calling the city's proposal "fair to both sides."

"I really appreciate the desire of the people who have started (medical marijuana) businesses ... to seek to become more legitimate," she said. "And I expect that this is an area of regulation that will evolve over time."

Licenses for medical marijuana businesses would carry an initial fee of up to $5,000 and an annual renewal fee of up to $2,000. Those fees could change based on the actual cost of administering the licenses.

The city estimates there are 100 marijuana businesses now with sales-tax licenses, but not all are open and some are thought to be operating illegally.

Owners of dispensaries would be required to undergo a criminal background check, provide a business plan and meet security requirements.

Those businesses that grow the plant would be required to offset 100 percent of their electricity by purchasing wind power, participation in a community solar garden or on-site solar power.

Other restrictions would require dispensaries to keep only enough product for the number of patients who designate them as primary caregivers. Patients under the age of 18 would have to be escorted into a dispensary with a parent or guardian, and no one would be allowed to use marijuana inside the shop or in public.

The rules would not provide a defense against federal laws, which continue to make possession or cultivation of marijuana illegal.

The rules would keep medical marijuana businesses at least 500 feet away from schools or day-care centers.

According to city officials, there are now seven medical marijuana businesses operating within 500 feet of a school or day-care center. They were all granted sales-tax licenses by the city before the council enacted temporary rules preventing the encroachment, and they would likely be allowed to continue operating where they are now.

The meeting Tuesday night drew more than a dozen owners, managers and users of medical marijuana, as well as opponents of the drug.

Ed Withers, who lives on Ninth Street in Boulder, was concerned about a dispensary that moved into a store just 30 feet from his home.

"Why don't you prohibit marijuana dispensaries where children live?" Withers asked the council. "You send the wrong message to children about drug use by permitting marijuana dispensaries in mixed-use areas."

Brooke Wise, a Boulder resident and an advocate for medical marijuana, said dispensaries have taken a bite out of crime for the city.

"The black market for marijuana has almost completely disappeared," she said.

Some dispensary owners, like Tom Luecke, said licensing fees being considered by the city and the state would put them out of business.

The city is closely monitoring state lawmakers, who are considering House Bill 1284. That bill, on its way to the Senate for consideration, would impose state licensing fees and set operational requirements for dispensaries and growing operations. If local and state laws were to overlap, the more stringent law would apply.

Pierre Werner, owner of Dr. Reefer on University Hill, said he's also in potential financial trouble if the state and the city levy hefty fees.

"If the state passes their rules and regulations, they're going to force me to sell my dispensary," he said.

Others urged the city to ease restrictions on private caregivers or the spacing requirements.

According to the city, the Boulder Police Department may create a position to screen security plans, check licenses and monitor businesses for compliance with the new code.

Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said he's happy with the regulations.

"I think it will help, because right now there are no regulations," he said.

Beckner said that, if medical marijuana dispensaries want to be treated like providers of medication, they should be regulated by the city.

"Pharmacies are regulated, liquor stores are regulated," he said.



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Source: dailycamera
Author: Heath Urie
Contact: mailto:urieh@dailycamera.com?
Copyright: 2010 dailycamera
Website: Boulder approves rules for medical marijuana industry - Boulder Daily Camera