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Commissioners Hear Reaction to Proposed Marijuana Regulations

An example of outdoor medical marijuana plants under cultivation in Fremont County (courtesy photo)

After listening to public comment for nearly two hours Tuesday morning the Fremont County Board of Commissioners indicated they would consider how new marijuana regulations might be modified to address some of the concerns raised by medical marijuana patients and caregivers.   The ordinance that was discussed on first reading would put into place a comprehensive set of regulations governing the cultivation of both medical marijuana and marijuana for personal use in the unincorporated areas of Fremont County.   As written the ordinance would restrict the number of marijuana plants that could be grown outdoors and minimum acreages required for cultivation.   It would also require screening from public view.   The ordinance also addresses indoor cultivation of marijuana.

Most of the opposition voiced at the meeting came from caregivers and individual growers who use what they grow.   Karen Hunter, a registered caregiver for five medical marijuana patients, said the restrictions will force outdoor growers inside and push people to grow on public lands.  Darren Jones said requiring a minimum of five acres for caregiver grows would “cut the legs off some of us”.   He said limiting caregivers will be hardest on patients who can’t afford to go into the store (and buy medical marijuana).    Chris Garrison and Scott Strong, both military veterans, said the ordinance will punish the people who register and comply.   Both spoke of how medical marijuana has proven to be a great medical benefit compared to the debilitating drugs prescribed by the Veterans Administration.

The commissioners did hear support for the ordinance from people who said tougher regulations are needed for people who want to grow marijuana and ignore the impact on neighbors.  Beverly Krieger who lives in the Meadowdale Ranch subdivision along County Road 3 at Parkdale said some neighbors have moved in specifically to grow marijuana.   She says if they violate state law and use well water to cultivate marijuana it could compromise all of the neighbors’ water wells.   Sheriff Jim Beicker said he supports the ordinance and thinks the restrictions are reasonable.   Noting that violations of the ordinance would be a petty offense subject to fines, the Sheriff said the intent is not to put anyone in jail.

Commission Chairman Ed Norden said he appreciated the thoughtful suggestions the citizens offered particularly regarding the impact on medical marijuana patients and caregivers.   But Norden said the commissioners recognize that regulations are needed.   He said “People are concerned about their neighborhoods and a threat of people moving in for no other purpose than to grow marijuana”.   He added that without regulations, “There is an unfettered explosion of people doing whatever the hell they want”.  Rob Harper of Cañon City urged the commissioners to consider some reasonable change to the ordinance restrictions saying that if the ordinance is approved as written, “You’re only going to force people to go underground”.

The commissioners took no action and said the ordinance will come back before the board on second reading with some anticipated changes.   Commissioner Norden said once amended language is proposed a second draft of the ordinance will be available for public inspection on the county’s website at www.fremontco.com.