Colorado Springs shoots down toughest MMJ regulations

December 14, 2010

Colorado Springs City Council opted for less-stringent medical marijuana regulations Tuesday night, a move that drew loud applause from a packed room of patients and providers.

The council voted unanimously to adopt zoning requirements on marijuana centers, without several strict measures that had been recommended by the city’s planning commission. Critics said the planning commission’s requirements would have been a de facto ban on the industry.

“The community has voted on this and I absolutely will support the will of the voters,” said councilman Darryl Glenn, referring to a ballot measure last month in which El Paso County voters rejected a ban on medical marijuana-related businesses.

The most contentious measure recommended by the planning commission called for a 1,000-foot buffer zone between centers and pre-schools, grade schools, colleges, residential child care facilities and drug and alcohol rehab centers. Industry advocates said that would have put 64 providers out of business.

The council agreed to reduce the buffer to 400 feet and remove pre-schools and colleges from the requirement.

They also agreed to allow medical marijuana businesses in commercial zones and to allow existing facilities in industrial and office complex zones to remain. They would be banned from residential zones.

The council also rejected a planning commission recommendation limiting how much of a grow operation’s floor space could be use for growing.

“I am not inclined to put any restrictions on how you configure and use your facility. That’s a business decision you have to make,” said councilman Larry Small, the vice mayor. “I’m not aware of any other business where we have said, ‘You must use your floor area in this parituclar fashion.’”

“It’s much more favorable than what we had when we came out of the planning commission,” Tanya Garduno, director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, said after the vote.

Some on the council had sharp words for the planning commission for denying the public a chance to speak and what they saw as an attempt to legislate the medical marijuana issue through zoning.

“Their findings I feel to be arbitrary,” Glenn said. “I want (the commission) to apply the rules and procedures that we appointed you to perform. Let us deal with the touchy-feely subjects.”

“I believe the planning commission went overboard. I like the recommendations for changes that came from our land-use review folks,” said councilman Bernie Herpin.

“Instead of just shutting the door and saying, ‘No, we’re not going to deal with this,’ we are dealing with it and we’re doing it in a rational way that respects peoples’ rights,” said councilman Sean Paige.

With the exception of representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs asking for a 1,000-foot buffer around churches, and Colorado College and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs favoring 1,000-foot buffer around their schools, the many who spoke were opposed to the more stringent regulations.

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