Ft. Collins Voters Will Decide Whether to Ban Medical Marijuana Stores
Voters in the college town of Fort Collins, Colorado, will cast their ballots on November 1 for or against banning medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, a decision that could have national implications. The city council authorized the ballot question after it was petitioned by the group Concerned Fort Collins Citizens (CFCC), which is supported by the Team Fort Collins, a group that says the 21 dispensaries within city limits are contributing to marijuana use by teens and marijuana-related crime.
Terri Gomez, the founder of Citizens for Safer Neighborhoods (CSN), a group opposing the petition, said there is little evidence to support CFCC’s assertion that the stores lead to crime. Denver Westword Blogs reports that acting Police Chief Jerry Schiager testified last February at a City Council meeting that there was no significant increase in crime that could be attributed to medical marijuana dispensaries. On the other hand, Larimer County Sheriff Justin Smith says crime rates have risen near the dispensaries.
CSN’s Gomez is leading approximately 300 volunteers to canvas neighborhoods to get the pro-medical marijuana message to people who are on the fence. She is concerned that if voters ban the pot stores, there will be no oversight for people who choose to grow their own medical marijuana at home or who seek it from a caregiver.
As William Breathes wrote in Denver Westword Blogs,
Gomez points out that the centers are secured, monitored heavily by the city and the state, and only sell to licensed patients. Driving the dispensaries out of business would mean that more patients would grow in their homes, subject to far fewer regulations than the shops are. Others would resort to the black market.
Monte Whaley, writing in The Denver Post, quotes Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez, who supports the petition:
‘If they really are concerned about their patients, then why do they have sign dancers on sidewalks, advertising their businesses,’ asked former Fort Collins Mayor Ray Martinez and a founder of Concerned Fort Collins Citizens. ‘Do you see sign dancers in front of pharmacies or doctor’s offices?’
Martinez said the dispensaries have gone far beyond the intent of the 2000 statewide vote that allowed the use of marijuana for debilitating medical conditions. He also criticized the city for allowing dispensaries to flourish, even though federal and state law still forbids the sale and use of marijuana. ‘This has for us, basically created a new black market in our city limits,’ Martinez said.
Other states looking to regulate medical marijuana will watch the vote to see where the legal winds are blowing on the issue, Gomez said.