This post addresses the City Planning Meeting on Thursday in which the panel discussed and debated medical cannabis center zoning laws and regulations. Particularly, the Council for Neighborhoods and Organizations (CONO) proposed a city ordinance to increase the minimum distances of centers from 400ft to 1000ft.
This puts half of the industry (60 centers) out of business without a vote, simply through zoning ordinance. The only way to fight these bureaucratic attacks against patients and industry is through physical representation at the meetings and grassroots political organization. Here is the letter I submitted to the City to combat the zoning bans. The full day meeting resulted in the City deciding to refer this zoning issue for two more months. Enjoy:
To: Colorado Springs City Planning Administration
In rebuttal to the proposed medical marijuana ordinance, the question of increasing the minimum distance required for Medical Marijuana Centers from schools, child care centers, alcohol and/or drug treatment facilities from 400 to 1000 feet warrants careful and serious analysis before being set into law. The Administration of Planning, Economic Development, Budget, City Council, and Revenue & Collections, and other agencies are fundamentally missing why this ordinance is being put forth and what consequences it will have if passed.
The history of the City’s process of trying to determine a minimum distance for medical cannabis centers goes to show the apparent and arguably, arbitrary, methodology by which this City chooses to regulate a brand new industry. At first, the City agreed to a minimum of 250ft. This was later changed to only 200ft to reflect a warranted reduction for these highly secure and privately accessed facilities. The City settled mandating 400ft in its June 30, 2010 Ordinance 10-45 which requires that:
Each medical marijuana center, medical marijuana-infused product manufacturer or optional premises cultivation operation meets all the following conditions as of the close of business June 30, 2010:
1. The medical marijuana business is not located within a residential land use zone district;
2. The medical marijuana business is not located within four hundred feet (400’) of a school, an alcohol or drug treatment facility, or a residential child care facility;
As a reminder and public expectation, ordinances should only be passed if they protect the public from substantial injury or threat. This raises many fundamental and important questions:
• What injury has been made since June that will be satisfied in increasing this minimum distance from one building to another by 3 or 4 blocks?
• What injury of citizenship is rectified or has been damaged in the first place?
• How is this more effective than the 400ft limit placed a mere two months ago?
• Where is the evidence that the current 400ft is more problematic for the public and must be changed after a mere two months?
• If, logically, this is supposed to deter or prevent children and recovering addicts from accessing medical cannabis, then how effective will the ordinance be by moving these secured andlocked-down cannabis facilities one or two minutes further away?
Furthermore, unlike liquor stores and pharmacies, the “patient-only-patrons” of medical cannabis centers must FIRST obtain legally-required access in the form of a State registered medical marijuana license. This license requires documented physician records and a licensure fee of $90 to be paid to the state PRIOR to accessing these secure, monitored, and heavily regulated small businesses. Medical Cannabis Centers also have heavily vested interest in leases, assets, licensing fees, insurance, and production facilities. These revenue streams cannot be ignored and forfeited to the opportunity cost of increasing illusionary Marijuana safety by an arbitrary 600 ft.
Conversely, liquor stores are not required to maintain ANY minimum distance from drug and Alcohol rehab meetings or classes. Furthermore, unlike a Medical Marijuana Center, a recovering alcoholic or drug addict needs only a standard picture ID and 21 years of life to purchase an arguably more dangerous substance. Even children can enter liquor stores and purchase candy, soda, and similar items. The welfare of children is a poor argument for this MMC legislation given that article 4 of the city ordinance has no minimum distance requirements from schools in regulating Sexually-Oriented businesses!
Thorough security and limited access are key characteristics of the MMJ industry which poses no public threat and has been operating without major incident amid stringent regulation for years. When HB 1284 mentions the right for local municipalities to set distance requirements, it clearly identifies the ability and right for local municipalities to decide what distance, if any, is best for the City.
(d) (I)… THE GOVERNING BODY OF A MUNICIPALITY, BY ORDINANCE, AND THE GOVERNING BODY OF A COUNTY, BY RESOLUTION, MAY VARY THE DISTANCE RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED BY THIS SUBPARAGRAPH (I) FOR A LICENSE OR MAY ELIMINATE ONE OR MORE TYPES OF SCHOOLS, CAMPUSES, OR FACILITIES FROM THE APPLICATION OF A DISTANCE RESTRICTION ESTABLISHED BY OR PURSUANT TO THIS SUBPARAGRAPH
The only consequence this ordinance will have is the economically detrimental effect of shutting down up to 60 medical marijuana centers in town. If this ordinance is passed, it increases the 400ft minimum to 1000ft. This puts approximately 60 Medical Marijuana Centers in direct jeopardy of the law – closed centers employ no one, don’t pay revenues, and re-abandon commercial real estate during a severe recession. It is important to elect officials educated in Medical Cannabis and its industry to best represent the rights of those patients who economically demand increasingly better quality, safety, selection, and consistency of medicine.
The existing Medical Center model is satisfying demand so far in Colorado Springs and unless there is verifiable evidence to say an additional 600ft will resolve an unfounded “injury” made to the public, Planning would do best to analyze medical cannabis before closing hundreds of people’s livelihood and re-crippling a down-trodden economy. Please give the industry time to grow with current regulation before jumping to conclusions about the number of feet at which children and drug addicts become safe from medical cannabis.
Feedback is always appreciated, and I should be having some guest posts coming soon. Thanks for following, look forward to posting more next week.