City tweaks rule for pot centers

Businesses can be located near treatment facilities

The Cortez City Council voted Tuesday to delete a requirement from a city ordinance that medical marijuana stores not be located within 1,000 feet of addiction treatment centers.

Councilors Betty Swank and Tom Butler voted against dropping the requirement. It passed with the remaining five councilors voting for it.

Cortez’s medical marijuana ordinance enacted earlier this year hit its first speed bump when it was discovered after the ordinance passed that two existing medical marijuana centers within the city appear to be in violation of the distance requirement.

During discussions drafting the ordinance, the main focus was on distance requirements between medical marijuana centers and distances from schools.

Medicine Man at 310 East Main Street is located less than 800 feet (as the pedestrian walks) from Cortez Addiction Recovery Services, located on North Ash Street.

Ann Wetton, director of CARS, had said it is helpful in treatment to distance patients from the substance they are addicted to.

The former location of The Herbal Alternative, 33 East Main St., was also in violation of the rule. It has since closed, changed owners and is in the process of relocating to 1531 Lebanon Rd.

To remain in effect, the new ordinance also requires a 1,500 foot distance between each medical marijuana center as well as between centers and schools.

The ordinance, approved by the council March 13, was recommended by the city Medical Marijuana Ad Hoc Committee — formed specifically to recommend medical marijuana policy to the council. It has since disbanded.

The council had the option of lowering the 1,000 foot requirement, eliminating it completely, or leaving it in place and forcing the two businesses to relocate or close.

No businesses are yet licensed under the city’s new medical marijuana licensing system — which mimics the established alcohol licensing system.

Current centers are not being “grandfathered” in under the system and must go through the licensing system as a new applicant in order to remain in business.

Over the objection of center owners earlier this month, the new ordinance also restricts the number of medical marijuana businesses operating within the city limits to three. There are currently four such businesses in town, although only three are in operation.

Also approved last month, the council set licensing fees based on labor costs for city staff to review applications and inspect medical marijuana centers. The fees are as follows: $2,500 to file an application, $750 to obtain a license, $250 to renew that license, and $1,500 to transfer that license to a new owner or new building.

Reach Reid Wright at reidw@cortezjournal.com