Jun 8, 2010 3:57 AM by Bea Karnes, Matt Stafford

Gov. Ritter signs medical marijuana regulations

Colorado's medical marijuana industry will now have to follow new statewide regulations. Gov. Bill Ritter on Monday signed two bills passed by state lawmakers this session to rein in the growing number of marijuana dispensaries and growers.

Both laws take effect immediately.

One requires that only doctors in good standing be able to recommend medical marijuana. The other sets up a uniform set of rules for marijuana dispensaries and growers statewide.

Cities and counties are able ban dispensaries within their borders. In places where they're allowed, owners will have to undergo criminal background checks. Dispensaries must grow 70 percent of their marijuana, a provision aimed at keeping tabs on where the drug is being sold.

"It's still very tough to get that much money together and to be 70 percent efficient, which nobody is, by that time," says Brett Strauss, a Colorado Springs business owner with interests in medical marijuana grow operations and dispensaries.

Strauss is close to compliance with the new law, but he says it has cost him a lot. However, as for William Abeyta, the goal is a little further off. Abeyta is trying to open up a dispensary before the July 1st deadline.

"I currently have a couple of investors and we're looking into actually opening an establishment," Abeyta says.

Abeyta must be established, meet local regulations and be in compliance with state laws before the deadline.

For medical marijuana entrepreneurs in the Springs, the idea of meeting local regulations was a tough one just a couple of weeks ago; there were no regulations because technically medical marijuana businesses were still illegal in the City.

Now a pre-application process is passing City Council votes. That will allow the Colorado Springs dispensaries to meet the house bill regulation of being locally approved.

City Councilman Sean Paige says the council is working on drafts of new ordinances for the industry locally, addressing land use issues and business licensing. He says those will help move the industry forward. However, as for House Bill 1284 that may not be moving forward as quickly.

"Almost certainly there will be some lawsuits that result, and that's just going to prolong the uncertainty," Paige says.

As for now one thing is certain, if the businesses want to keep operating, they'll have to get in line with the new law.


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