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Durango approves 60-day pot pause

By Jim Haug Herald staff writer

Marijuana is supposed to be soothing, but regulating the drug has apparently stressed out city officials.

The City Council on Tuesday approved an “emergency ordinance” for a 60-day moratorium, ending Aug. 18, on issuing new business licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries and production facilities.

The city’s moratorium will be in effect when the state’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries is lifted July 1. In Colorado, medical marijuana businesses are regulated by both state and local governments.

A 60-day extension of the moratorium is to give the city time to deal with regulatory issues that have risen over the last three years of allowing medical marijuana businesses.

Because it’s a cash-only business, officials wonder if the city is receiving the right amount of sales tax. “We’re not accusing anyone of anything, but there needs to be an audit,” said City Attorney David Smith in an interview

The city staff also is concerned its fees and fines are not covering the costs of regulating marijuana. City officials said Durango’s fines appear to be low when compared to other communities in Colorado, and “that’s not something to be proud of,” Smith said.

Smith also noted in a memo that “medical marijuana facilities require virtually constant inspections by Code Enrollment officers and violations of Code provisions and state regulations are not infrequent.”

As outlined by Smith in the memo, other regulatory issues include:

Whether the city should approve medical businesses in the downtown business district or within mixed-use buildings where people also live.

The appropriate distance between medical marijuana dispensaries and schools, parks, rehabilitation facilities and other medical marijuana facilities

To what extent dispensaries should be allowed to cultivate and grow marijuana within city limits, if growing marijuana in a house necessitates a home-occupation permit

Issues related to facilities making products infused with marijuana, such as cookies and other baked goods, and the tracking and destruction of medical marijuana plants.

If the city needs more time to work on regulations and a new fee and fine schedule, the moratorium could be extended, Smith said.

jhaug@durangoherald.com

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