As a follow up to my original post “Colorado Springs City Planners Plan to Zone Centers out of Business“, the meeting on November 18th was packed with an organized coallition of medical cannabis business owners, patients, and advocates.
Among them, was myself in suit and tie ready to open fire on behalf of the MMJ community. This did not happen as the Colorado Springs City Planning Commission decided to deny all public testimony on the proposed zoning ordinance. The Gazette covered this story here, and City Council responded here. Additionally, video coverage and my interview with PNN can be viewed here.
Following this debocale of government shortsight, I wrote to Colorado Springs City Council who will review this proposed ordinance from City Planning on December 14th.
Dear City Council,
I am writing this letter a few hours after the City Planning Commission unanimously voted to approve a recommendation you will review on December 14th. The reason for my correspondence is to give a record of the proposal as it pertains to your decision in December. As witnessed by the audience, citizens, and media this item was hastily approved by the City Planning Commission with little “planning” but much “commission”. Given the immediacy of legislation affecting the medical cannabis community, it’s not surprising that the commission would want to hastily approve zoning on a new industry. What is surprising is the lack of educated judgment they used to do so.
Although the media and public were prevalently present, the commission decided to silence the audience by refusing public testimony on this important issue. With an ordinance that affects 60 businesses and 41% of a City’s fledgling cannabis revenue stream, it is surprising this commission did not reach out to other branches of the city to see how this zoning legislation affects your ability to service the community. As city councilors, this responsibility falls on you to protect the rights of business owners, amendment protected patients, and the will of the people from the limited sight of a volunteer board’s recommendation.
The Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council has worked diligently to educate leaders at all levels of government about this novel industry. When it comes to the city planning commission, the resistance of many of its members to work with the Council in drafting these ordinances is one clear example of their refusal to understand the needs of the people they are zoning out of business. Understandably, they have the responsibility to protect the community and to decide how to use land in Colorado Springs.
What is not understandable is the presumed threat that the City Planners are protecting us against. People are already in favor of medical cannabis centers (1A Vote) and the current 400ft buffer has worked for months. Your own police report there is no crime increase associated with secure, locked down facilities that can only be accessed by qualified patients. These businesses have been allowed to operate and are regulated in Amendment 20 and House Bill 1284.
I have attached a letter I wrote to the City Planners in September before they met to discuss these ordinances the first time. In this letter, I state the original ordinance law and point out the following questions for commission consideration:
- What injury has been made since June that will be satisfied in increasing this minimum distance from one building to another by an arbitrary 3 or 4 blocks?
- What injury of citizenship is rectified by this action or what was 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 and locked-down cannabis facilities one or two minutes further away?
I think the City Council will find these questions to be reasonable and warranted for analysis. Despite delivering this letter prior to the first meeting on zoning, the planning commission refused to entertain these logical ideals and have assumed a secure facility to be a danger to the community. To the extent that they wish to symbolically separate medical cannabis facilities from our society. This is despite the voter’s clear intent to allow, monitor, tax and regulate these businesses.
Please read my previous letter to the commission about this premature recommendation and please allow an industry to naturally take shape and form in the community. If the current zoning law for medical cannabis is inadequate, the City should be able to show why this is so. Separating facilities to force higher financial barriers of vertical business integration during a severe recession is counterproductive to the progression of our local economy. This ordinance alone would force hundreds out of jobs.
Additionally, the threat of lawsuit in this legislative turmoil is greatly increased every time new action is taken against business owners who have an investment to protect. In an industry lacking precedent law, this zoning ordinance could bring financial burden to the citizens of Colorado Springs if the city is sued by one or more of the 60 businesses under direct threat. As with the current County lawsuit, government should not allow, regulate, then close a business. Arbitrarily Zoning businesses away has little legal justification in a system meant to help centers operate under license. Where is the proof in the pudding?
From the beginning, the CSMCC has been proactive in working with the government to do what’s best for patients, industry, and society. We are still more than willing to help in this capacity and we feel the voice we represent is important in the structure of a new market. We support fair regulation and free market enterprise as is the tradition of capitalism and entrepreneurs. We ask that the city council consider the opinion of the industry experts in deciding what’s best for the city, its citizens, and the businesses serving constitutionally protected patients of Colorado.
Thank you for your attention in this matter.
Mark H. Slaugh
Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council
Feel free to copy this letter and send this over to City Council with your own edits.