Nine years ago, the citizens of Colorado voted to make medical marijuana legal. The federal government for years ignored state laws by continuing to willy-nilly pursue medical marijuana dealers and users. The Obama Justice Department announced Monday that it was putting an end to that capricious approach and would no longer dedicate resources and time to pursuing or prosecuting people on either end of the medical marijuana business. So why, exactly, are local Colorado authorities still wrestling with the idea that medical marijuana is legal?
The Greeley city council Wednesday decided to join Broomfield and Superior in just saying no to medical marijuana and voted 6 to 1 to ban dispensaries. Greeley pot patients groaned. Greeley city tax collectors sighed. Fort Collins dispensers and tax collectors cheered!
The New York Times today published a story on the ways states and local municipalities are contending with the murky state of the law. In Oregon there is a push to have the state grow the marijuana itself. Greeley has taken the opposite tack.
Led by Mayor Ed Clark, a former police officer, the Greeley City Council has decided to try to tax deliveries of pot coming to patients from dispensaries located in nearby towns– like Fort Collins and Loveland.
An exasperated dispensary owner Rich Present told the Greeley Council it was making the wrong decision.
Present said he serves 150 medical marijuana patients from Greeley each week at his dispensary in Loveland. He said his business, which is expanding to a dozen locations across the state, generates $6,700 a month in sales taxes.
“We’re throwing tax dollars right directly into those communities.”
What are the arguments made by the Greeley authorities?
They believe it’s a public safety issue. Council member Ed Phillipsen argued against testimony that marijuana was safe. It’s “ridiculous” to say there are no harmful side effects and deaths related to marijuana, he said.
Although doctors write the pot prescriptions in consultation with patients, Mayor Clark described the trade as lawless and irresponsible.
“Anyone (18 or older) who knows how to water a seed and dry it … can take care of people with severe illnesses.”
The Greeley City Council has had its say. It’s far from the last word on the topic.