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Commissioners Adopt Medical Marijuana Regulations

In Colorado's medical marijuana grow operations every plant must be tied directly to a patient holding a medical marijuana card. Sales of medical marijuana in Colorado continue to outstrip sales of recreational pot through the first six months.

The Fremont Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt regulations governing medical marijuana (MMJ) establishments in the county including MMJ storefronts, cultivation, manufacturing, and processing.    The regulations also set up licensing procedures with fees for the initial applications and fees for the annual licenses.

District 2 Commissioner Debbie Bell said the Commissioners did not make many significant changes from the regulations that were being considered at the June 26th public hearing.   County Attorney Brenda Jackson said among the changes was the addition of language regulating signage for MMJ storefronts, adding manufacturing to the language as to when water providers would be consulted, and clarifying that multiple state licenses at a single location would require only one license from Fremont County.

Jim Bensberg, a spokesman for the marijuana cultivation business in the former Apple Valley greenhouses in Penrose, put forth a last minute proposition in hopes of expanding cultivation facilities to include recreational pot.   Bensberg’s proposal urged the Board of Commissioners to remove the ban on recreational marijuana cultivation and allow only those facilities now growing medical marijuana to transition into recreational marijuana as well.

Commissioners Ed Norden and Tim Payne emphasized that even if that suggestion was considered it was not going to take place as part of the adoption of the regulations for medical marijuana.    MMJ owner Tim Brown said they offered the amendment because it is a life and death matter now for their business.   That prompted Commissioner Payne to reply, “But you knew that going in, when you came into this county….you were rolling the dice”.    Commissioner Bell said many of the Penrose area opponents have also risked their life savings in their property that may be diminished by nearby marijuana operations.   Bell added, “I don’t think the state is doing its’ job in regulating marijuana….and I only regret that we didn’t do this sooner”.

With adoption of the resolution and the regulations, the county’s Planning Department will soon being accepting applications for MMJ licenses.   The moratorium on any new medical marijuana businesses is set to expire August 1st because those businesses will now have to go through the license application process.

The Commissioners on Tuesday also voted to approve a Special Review Use permit for the Penrose Water District to construct a pipeline from groundwater wells along the Arkansas River to the Penrose area to serve their water customers.    Board member Charlotte Norman said the pipeline and associated pump station will finally allow the Penrose Water District to access the water rights the district secured when they purchased the water rights from the Goodwin Ranch at Howard in 2005.    Engineer Tom McClernan of GMS Consulting Engineers said the district plans to drill six well sites to serve as the diversion for water from the river.   McClernan said contrary to rumors the district will not build a diversion dam on the Arkansas River.

The water would be pumped initially to a holding tank.   A booster pump station would then pump the water through a 12-inch pipeline north to Brush Hollow Reservoir.    Depending on money available and bids received for construction, the district will also consider another 7,000 foot pipeline that could pump the water directly to the water treatment plant's holding ponds.

Commissioner Debbie Bell commended the Penrose Water District Board for pursuing the project and for the long hours of work it took to accomplish.   Commissioner Ed Norden added that while it’s always disappointing to see more water taken out of agricultural uses on farms and ranches in the county, at least in this case the water will remain in Fremont County to benefit local citizens.

The Board of Commissioners Tuesday also voted to authorize the Chairman to sign a contract with Reilly-Johnson Architecture of Denver for architectural and engineering services to renovate the 4th floor of the Fremont County Judicial Building for the new communications center.   Since the building is county owned, the Board of Commissioners is serving as the lead agency for the project design and construction instead of relegating that task to the joint governing board.   The Reilly-Johnson contract approved by the Commissioners is for a fee of $82,960.

Without casting a formal vote, all three Commissioners Tuesday gave consensus approval to move ahead with developing an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) that could lead to creation of a regional building authority thus combining the services now delivered through the County, the City of Cañon City, and the City of Florence.   Cañon City Council members have also given informal approval to move ahead with an IGA to develop the concept.    Commissioner Debbie Bell, who has served on the regional planning committee, said the group now has a business plan developed which members believe will enable to bring the proposal to reality.    Commissioner Ed Norden said he’s on board with the plan on the condition that it does not cost the taxpayers of Fremont County any additional money than what the county now pays to supplement the County Building Department’s annual budget.

In other business Tuesday the Commissioners:

  • Approved a liquor license for TZ Liquor which will reopen in the former Ak & Zaks store on Forge Road just west of Oak Creek Grade.   Dina Tezak said for now she will only operate a liquor store with no immediate plans to reopen the convenience store and gas station;
  • Appointed County Finance and Budget Officer Sunny Bryant to serve as the Fremont County representative to the Southern Colorado Economic Development District Board;
  • Authorized an expenditure of $7,523 to Mountain Masonry to do brick work on the War Memorial Wall at the airport.  The work will be done so the 103 names of 12th Tactical Fighter Wing veterans can be grouped again in a separate and distinct area.