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Sep 16, 2010 12:55 AM by Andy Koen

Dispensaries face zoning hurdle

Colorado Springs city planners are set to zoning restrictions for medical marijuana dispensaries at a meeting Thursday morning.  However, a new proposal to the committee has dispensary owners worried that they could be zoned out of business.

It calls for a 1,000 foot buffer between dispensaries and churches, synagogues and mosques.  Tanya Garduno, President of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council says the proposal could put as many as 60 local dispensaries out of business.  She says a working proposal that her group has discussed with the commission set the buffer at 400 feet.

"They're really just trying to do that final push to ban centers," Garduno said. "It's really more of a personal agenda that they don't like medical marijuana centers as opposed to it's a bad business or it's injuring the community."

A news release issued by the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of the Rockies includes an email from commission member Janet Suthers to members of the Center for Christian and Jewish Dialogue inviting local religious leaders to give their input at Thursday's meeting.  The email notes that the current ordinance under consideration does not include buffers from parks, colleges, day care centers, pre schools and places of worship.

Suthers feels that she and the other members of the planning commission should hear a broad cross section of input on the decision and she says that previous meetings did not include key stakeholders such as churches, public schools and colleges and universities.

"The commission could make better decisions by working with those key stakeholders," Suthers said.

The Uheal Apothecary which is located near Kiowa and Tejon downtown is within a city block of at least three churches. Owner Chris Siegel says he's concerned that the zoning proposal could force him to close up shop.

"I'm not going to say I'm upset with it," Siegel said.  "People have their opinions and they're going to think what they want to think and they're going to make decisions how they feel best to suit their belief and I respect that."

House Bill 1284 which established licensing regulations specifies that medical marijuana should not be sold within 1,000 feet of a school, a drug or alcohol treatment facility, the principal campus of a college or university, a seminary, or a residential child care facility.  However, Garduno says the city has flexibility in drawing up zoning restrictions.

"It does give municipalities the option to change that spacing requirement so they can either make it more or they can make it less and they can also exclude any of those pieces from the equation as well," Garduno said.

The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle.  The commission's recommendation must receive final approval from city council before becoming law.

 

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