City looks at new pot rules

Issue concerns marijuana caregivers

The Cortez City Council is taking a first stab at regulating medical marijuana caregivers on a municipal level.

Although caregivers may not be banned due to protections under the Colorado constitution, the city is attempting to direct where and how they operate within the city limits.

“Caregivers are constitutionally protected,” Mike Green, city attorney told the council May 8. “We are regulating them to the extent necessary for what I call health and safety.”

This may prove difficult to enforce as caregivers register with the Colorado Department of Public Health, which is not required to report caregiver identities or locations to local authorities.

A proposed ordinance came before the council Tuesday, and is based on recommendations provided by the medical marijuana ad hoc committee and city planning and zoning.

Under the current proposal, a medical marijuana caregiver or patient must live in the same building in which plants are grown and the grow area must be secured from anyone but the caregiver or patient.

Each caregiver may legally provide medical marijuana for up to five patients. They often operate out of their homes.

The proposed ordinance prohibits outdoor growing, unusual smells, light pollution, undue traffic, excessive parking use, excessive noise as well as prohibiting marijuana and marijuana-related signs from being visible to the public.

In addition, the ordinance addresses health and safety issues, requiring medical marijuana operations to comply with electrical and building codes.

The council also discussed whether to allow caregiver operations in residential, commercial and/or industrial zones within the city.

Lastly, the proposed ordinance makes it illegal under city code for non-licensed individuals to possess, cultivate or sell marijuana. Green said this allows marijuana offenses to be handled in the lower municipal court system.

The council recently approved an ordinance regarding medical marijuana retail centers, restricting the number of centers within the city to three.

The proposed ordinance is set to go before the council for public hearing 7:30 p.m. May 22 at Cortez City Hall, 210 East Main St.

Reach Reid Wright at reidw@cortezjournal.com