The announcement of a possible ban of growing operations sent ripples of fear through the medical marijuana industry in La Plata County. But the scare has passed, county commissioners learned Tuesday.
“I will no longer be recommending a ban,” said County Attorney Sheryl Rogers.
A May 15 commission meeting slated to discuss the proposed ban will be canceled, officials said. New licensing regulations are slated to take effect July 1 and development of land-use regulations for the industry will move forward as originally planned.
Rogers apologized for the concern the potential ban announcement caused in recent weeks as her staff sought to understand the implications of a letter from the county’s insurance carriers, Colorado Counties Casualty and Property Pool and OneBeacon Insurance, indicating the county’s medical marijuana regulatory activities may not be covered under their liability insurance policies.
The letter cited as a reason for its coverage decision conflicts between state and federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.
Awaiting the insurance company’s response to a request from local officials for a legal opinion from the firms, the county opted to make public the possibility of a ban against medical marijuana growing and production operations in the unincorporated areas of the county.
“I know this created some anxiety for some businesses in town,” Rogers said, later adding, “I don’t think it would have been fair to let them know at the 11th hour.”
Commissioners and Interim County Manager Joanne Spina agreed.
“(Announcing the situation) was the right thing to do,” Spina said.
The ban would have halted all commercial growing and production operations in the unincorporated areas of the county and forced local dispensaries to seek their products elsewhere. It also would have shelved months of trail-blazing work by county officials to develop a set of land-use and licensing regulations that might be emulated in other cities and states.
Though Rogers said the county’s insurance companies failed to provide her the official legal opinion she requested, County Technical Services Inc., a nonprofit organization owned by member counties in Colorado and an arm of county government that administers risk-sharing insurance pools, released a memo April 18 indicating Colorado Counties Casualty and Property Pool‘s legal review determined medical marijuana regulatory-related claims against the county would be handled like any other claim.
“They have informed me they feel confident coverage exists,” Rogers said.
The county still faces some risks in regulating the industry, Rogers added, but the risks now have “reached an acceptable range.”
The county also can limit some of its risks by adjusting the proposed regulations to include requirements for operator indemnification and release forms, she said.
Local businesses that would have been affected by the ban helped her office in recent weeks as they explored “a vast number of possible solutions” to the insurance problem, Rogers said.
Many suggestions were accepted and some were, or will be, implemented as they move forward in the coming weeks to amend and finalize the county’s regulations, she said.
“Hopefully, we’re over what appeared to be a substantial roadblock,” Rogers said.