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County commissioners again delay hearing that could ban pot operations

By Heather Scofield Herald staff writer

County commissioners again delayed a decision about whether to ban medical marijuana operations and licenses in unincorporated areas of La Plata County.

A public hearing on the proposed ban, originally slated for next week, now is scheduled immediately after the 10 a.m. county commission meeting May 15.

The meeting will be held in the commissioners’ meeting room at the La Plata County Courthouse.

Officials twice delayed the decision while they sought solutions to insurance concerns that arose recently when the county’s carrier, OneBeacon Insurance, said it would not cover the county’s medical marijuana-related regulatory work. The insurance company cited conflicts between state and federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.

But the county has spent months developing land-use regulations and licensing rules for the fledgling industry, rules they had hoped could be used as models around the state and nation.

The rules were approved late last year, and they were supposed to take effect May 1. So commissioners also will consider a resolution to delay the implementation of the regulations until the insurance problems are resolved.

Meanwhile, a temporary set of rules now in place have allowed some local medical marijuana businesses to open and flourish. A ban now could cost some locals their jobs.

“It’s a hard recommendation to make,” said County Attorney Sheryl Rogers, who said last month she will recommend the ban.

If adopted, the ban would immediately halt issuance of new land-use permits and licenses for commercial growers and producers in the unincorporated areas of the county. Permits already issued, including a new permit granted last month, would expire June 30, and businesses would be forced to close at that time.

Primary caregivers, dispensaries in Durango, a single “grand-fathered” growing operation inside city limits would not be affected by the ban. But retail shops selling products grown or produced in the unincorporated areas of the county would have to buy their products elsewhere, officials said.

City Manager Ron LeBlanc has said the city’s insurance coverage, provided by CIRSA, which offers pool coverage to more than 200 cities and towns in Colorado, is not in jeopardy. But city officials are unlikely to offer a haven within city limits for growers and producers who are affected by the situation in the county, he said.

hscofield@durangoherald.com

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