Dear Town of Lyons,
I will begin with the end in mind:How do we ask a board of seven individuals to draft up binding, unambiguous legislation, that satisfies all parties, when in fact, all the state’s legal resources have been unable to do that very thing?
With that said, I will say that a year ago, or perhaps even four weeks ago, I did not support a ban of MMJ Centers in Lyons. It wasn’t even on my radar. My intense involvement over the past two months has changed that opinion drastically.
Before I go any further, I need to take a moment to address the personal attacks occurring in letters to the editor and conversations during forums. It has been implied that parents who are voicing concern are actually the problem:
- That it’s only the parent’s responsibility to keep our children clear of drugs.
- The sudden advertising of a federally illegal substance, marketed with childish terminology has absolutely no influence on our children.
I find these notions offensive.
In addition, the continued belittling of a youth counselor and concerned resident who happens to be a pastor, who gives back everyday to the people of this community is despicable and frankly, desperate. I ask from now on, both sides stick to the point and let facts present their case.
With that being said, I ask that you read the following questions and answer honestly, yes or no.
Do you feel MMJ Centers have any potential to:
- Put the youth of this town at risk?
- Devalue property values?
- Negatively impact our town image and brand?
- Discourage tourists from stopping and spending money in our downtown?
- Discourage new home sales?
- Send a confusing message about the legalization or seriousness of marijuana?
If you cannot answer an emphatic ‘no’ to any or all of those questions, then there is a risk. I struggle with the argument that many of those points are not quantifiable or provable, in turn having no validity, as has been highlighted in recent forums and workshops. So what exactly needs to happen before we take seriously the risk to our youth or the economic implications? What exactly needs to occur before those concerns become quantifiable or provable? That we have increased drug use in our schools in a year? That homes aren’t selling when they border MMJ Centers in a year? Do we really need to experience this to recognize the risk?
I struggle with the fact that reasonable and logical arguments are being made by concerned residents, and in-turn, letters to the editor and irresponsible statements from proponents seem to hold equal weight.
One letter in particular included the following statements: “... I also believe the medical use of pot, even by “patients,” is not as prevalent as the use to get high.”; “What is wrong with getting high?”;“I have seen pot relax ADHD kids.”
During the January 26th Town Hall meeting, one proponent stood up and said in so many words that: “…if outside visitors are not down with marijuana then maybe Colorado is not the right place for you to visit.”
May I remind you that we are the Double Gateway to the Rockies? Another stood up and thought we as a town should consider legalizing marijuana for use within town limits. Another said: “…recreational smoking or medical...does it really matter?’
Or how about the quote from the same letter referenced above, that basically discredits the whole marijuana for medicinal purposes movement: “Yes, medical pot is a way to legitimize something that should be legal in the first place. Colorado can feel good that the medical pot that is probably saturating the non-legal smoker community is not contributing to the terror south of the border.”
What happened to the fight for the chronic pain patient, the broken backs and the little old lady that cannot drive?
I stated that initially I did not support a ban. I felt strict regulation could resolve the obvious issues. My qualifiers for appropriate regulations were as follows:
- The State Regulation 1000’ distance from schools and licensed daycares enforced. No grandfathering and no exceptions.
- No approval of any additional licenses. Cap set at the current 4 facilities.
- Reduction of existing MMJ Centers through market forces. If one goes out of business, then no replacement licenses are granted. Cap reduced accordingly.
- No grow operations.
- Signage is regulated to eliminate slang terminology and ensure a professional and clinical image is portrayed. No images of marijuana leafs or other associated symbols allowed.
I, along with many of you, could have signed up for the above conditions. However, here in lies the rub. By the town choosing to regulate, we leave the door open for legal challenges. Because the initial laws were so poorly written, these House Bills that are providing regulations are continually in a state of interpretation and challenge. HB 1284 was finalized in January and HB 1043 immediately followed and will in turn lead to another House Bill redefining rights and laws.
One trustee acknowledged Monday evening that the consensus is that this issue will not be figured out for 8 years. It was also addressed that there is a big push to legalize in 2012.
This is a very difficult position to take. I have spoken with many of the MMJ Center owners and even one property owner and, as I have mentioned on many occasions, I am not interested in demonizing them or their industry. I have had productive conversations with them and genuinely like them as human beings. This is not about the medicinal benefits of MMJ, that is not what is being debated. I feel that if all MMJ Center owners would have demonstrated a common respect for the community as well as their industry, and used professionalism and discretion we would not be here today. Instead we are now seeing the potential risks and trying to regulate what should have been obvious good business and neighborly practices from the outset.
I have walked this through on every angle and took into consideration every proponent’s position, and I find myself drawing the same conclusion:
How do we ask a board of seven individuals to draft up binding, unambiguous legislation, that satisfies all parties, when in fact, all the state’s legal resources have been unable to do that very thing?
Until the state puts in place solid regulations that protect the towns as well as the industry as a whole, we will continue to waste time and resources debating this issue. Any hard fought regulations will face constant, legal challenges from both sides.
The only decision that removes legal risk to our Town is a complete ban on MMJ Centers and grow-operations.
There are 50+ communities that have recently moved to ban MMJ Centers from their towns. A ban on MMJ Centers in Lyons will not deny patient access to MMJ. Let me remind you of the 117 in Boulder alone, the first of which is nine miles from town. There are nine more in Longmont. The majority also provide a delivery service.
Most importantly, a patient can still acquire MMJ through a licensed caregiver, what Amendment 20 was designed for and what the voters of Colorado actually voted for.
Any other decision other than to ban continues to put the Town of Lyons at risk. Today, we have four MMJ Centers. The seven licenses that were originally granted over a 10 month period brought in revenue of $3,067 in total. In all fairness, one was under renovation.
In comparison: Dacono has two MMJ Centers that reported $18,260; Longmont’s nine MMJ Centers reported $61,798; Boulder’s 117 MMJ Centers reported $444,777.
Clearly the revenue is not there, yet we, as a town, are still considering allowing grow operations, lifting the moratorium, and revisiting zoning and signage regulations. Why? At what point do we acknowledge the risks are outweighing the benefits? In contrast, the town has paid salaries to employees and lawyers for two years on an issue that is not moving this town forward.
HB 1284 puts the control back into the Town’s hands. A ban is a provision of HB1284 and a right given to all Colorado communities.
Please ask yourself if this is what you voted for on November 2, 2000, and if you had the opportunity to change it, would you?