The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners could soon decide whether to impose a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. It might also opt to leave the question to voters.

The commissioners would be better off tabling any notion of a ban and instead thinking harder about how best to regulate these businesses.

Coloradans approved Amendment 20 legalizing medical marijuana a decade ago, and even in the conservative stronghold of El Paso County, a majority voted in favor of the measure. In other words, putting the issue on the ballot seems pretty redundant.

Attitudes on medical marijuana have become even more relaxed since that vote.

Consider the news last week from the department of Veterans Affairs, which announced that patients treated at VA hospitals and clinics will be able to use medical marijuana in the 14 states where it’s legal.

The new approach doesn’t mean VA doctors will begin to prescribe medical marijuana, which is still considered illegal under federal law. But it does mean vets who need other pain-management drugs won’t have to worry about being cut off by the VA if they also use medical marijuana.

- Advertisement -

“For years, there have been veterans coming back from the Iraq war who needed medical marijuana and had to decide whether they were willing to cut down on their VA medications,” said John Targowski, a legal adviser to the group Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, which worked with the VA on the issue.

Targowski said confusion on the matter might have led some veterans to distrust their doctors or avoid the VA system.

The VA’s new thinking on this is logical, not to mention considerably more compassionate.

Meanwhile, some cities in Colorado — Superior and Vail, among them — have decided to impose dispensary bans or are preparing to.

Areas that have imposed similar moratoriums have seen their efforts backfire.

For example, Aurora’s ban, imposed in December, merely shifted dispensaries from business zones into residential areas. The number of home-grow operations in Aurora has increased by 217 percent in the past six months, officials say. The police chief of Aurora, Dan Oates, says his narcotics unit is devoting 40 percent of its time to identifying home growers and determining whether they are legitimate.

Often, Oates said, police also find weapons such as handguns at many of these locations, weapons mainly used to protect growers from potential thieves.

And the Aurora Sentinel reported last week that the city’s building inspectors, who now accompany police officials in their investigations of home growers, are finding electrical code violations of all sorts.

In one case, “it wasn’t a matter of if the house was going to burn down, it was a matter of when,” said Scott Berg, the city’s chief building official. “None of this is legal or even close to being legal.”

It’s safe to assume that if El Paso County outlaws dispensaries, medical marijuana users would, naturally, turn to home-based caregivers, who can provide marijuana for up to five registered users.

El Paso can then expect to experience what Aurora is now suffering.

Colorado Springs, on the other hand, appears less likely to impose a ban and, instead, is developing tighter guidelines for dispensaries that operate within the city limits.

Cities that have taken a similar approach have imposed licensing fees, required background checks on dispensary owners and employees, prohibited anyone convicted of a felony within five years from ownership, and barred locations within 1,000 feet of a school, day-care center or other dispensary.

We should soon know just what the City Council plans to do to regulate dispensaries.

And we should soon know how the El Paso County Commission plans to proceed.

Three of the five commissioners were leaning to putting the issue on the November ballot.

“My preference is a vote of the people,” Commission Chair Dennis Hisey said.

That sounds good but the people have already voted.

The county should regulate and monitor dispensaries closely, and leave bans to activities that the people have decided are truly illegal.

Allen Greenberg is the editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at or 719-329-5206.

  • Lacy Cronkhite

    I personally think this medical marijuana thing is a crock. It makes it very hard to explain to your teenagers that drugs are bad when we now have made it “legal”, and we prop up a bunch of ex convicted drug felons with a store front. Although it has been voted in as “legal”, you can still get fired from your employer if under the influence. As a business owner, I would not hire a new employee if they are under the influence of any drug… This is just a sexy way for our corrupt Politians to get into drug dealing! Wake up people and smell the pathologic lying. When our Government starts talking about providing “services” to our citizens, I can’t help but think about the services a bull provides to the cow…

  • JS

    Thanks for providing insight to the experiences of other local cities and reminding us that we already voted on this issue.

    It does not seem like there was much forethought by the government as to what would happen with the legalization of medical marijuana. The pendulum swung one way with dispensaries opening on every street block. And now, it swings the other way with government leaders trying to outlaw what was already approved by the voters.

    Your proposal of regulation seems to find a middle ground that, I would suspect, was the voters’ intention from the beginning.

  • J.R.

    I love it when people post such amusing opinions online for the whole world to see. Apparently some people feel its difficult to explain to there “Teenagers” how, 1. a cream made from, do I dare say it… “Marijuana” or, 2. a “consumable” (much like the same pills you see on kitchen counters across America every day) that have THC and healing canabinoids in them and can provide relief to those that choose a natural way to treat there ailments. I guess its easier for some people to explain how Vicoden helps for a backache, and how Ambien helps you get a good night rest. Or how when they turn 21 they can go to the local bar and order up a couple shots of vodka because its “legal” and “socially acceptable” Here let me teach everyone a few things so the next time the conversation of “Legal Marijuana” comes up in your household you might have some interesting things to say. First things first Marijuana has been in households across America since the early 60’s and maybe before, legal or not. Second lets not forget, the only way you can posess Marijuana legaly is if a “Doctor” recommends it for the relief of a debilitating condition. its not like you can get your Marijuana registration online or at the local 7-11. Now Like I said Marijuana has been available to any American who wishes to have it since the 60’s so legal or not people buy, sell, and consume Marijuana to treat there ailments. legalizing it not only makes it safer for the consumer, but there are a number of ways to consume THC and the healing properties of the Marijuana plant (which is a fact that dates back hundreds of years) other then smoking. In fact a good number of patients I have spoke to have expressed a great deal of excitement about the legalization of Marijuana because of that very reason. They can seek healthier ways to consume the plant to treat debilitating conditions other then smoking. Another reason why legalization, of course with appropriate state and local government regulation, is a positive thing is because the only way a person can be appropriately treated is by maintaining consistancy. In other words if a person chooses to exersice there state of Colorado, 20th ammendment right, they should have the right to a consistant medication. I’m not just talking about availability but also the quality and effect of the medication itself. Someone that works hard, and pays taxes should have access to a licensed professional week after week for the same relief. In one case for example, a gentelman told me “I can go find a drug dealear on the street any time I want to. I choose to go to a reputable dispensary because they helped me find the excact match for my condition, I can’t tell you how well its working for me, and now I can go back to the same place and get the same thing every time”. It has also been proven that you are less likely to become addicted to Marijuana then many of the synthetic drugs on the market. In fact pain killers like Vikoden are proven to be addictive after just one pill…. Now for the part the “corrupt politicians” like… Taxes! see the Marijuana Industry is a multi-billion dollar a year Industry that exsist whether the government takes their piece or not so it only makes sence (if Medical Doctors say it can offer better relief with less risk of addiction) to form some kind of regulation for it. Personally I think taxes on marijuana purchases should be paid. I pay my taxes why shouldnt they? Lets face it the people refered to as “corrupt politicians” have more then enough money falling out of there pockets they’re probably not to concerned about becoming “Drug Dealers” although that did give me a little laugh. Now the point about felons and ex-cons opening store fronts I believe is a valid one. I also believe that those types of people should not be permitted to own, opperate or even work in an establishment that allows them access to any type of drug. But with the appropriate regulations, and strict local government control, in my opinion the Medical Marijuana Industry isn’t hurting anyone and seems to be helping (according to the most recent published number of colorado residents registered) more then 60,000 people. And I havent even begun to speak about the benefits of the Medical Marijuana industry during the current recession crisis. Besides when did Americans become so quick to conform? Its the parents of teenagers now that are the ones that fought so gallantly in the 60’s and 70’s for our rights. In my opinion we should be teaching teenagers about the foundation of America and how to fight for what they believe in. Rather then sending them the message that if our government tells them how to live they should lie down and surrender. Remember the people have spoken. The government is listening. That’s the American way. At the end of the day MMJ you got my support, keep it moving!

  • Storm Crow

    Lacy, I dare you to go over to WebMD and run these titles! “Marijuana May Slow Alzheimer’s”; “Chemicals in Marijuana May Fight MRSA”; “Marijuana Chemical Fights Hardened Arteries”; “Marijuana Ingredients Slow Invasion by Cervical and Lung Cancer Cells”; “Marijuana’s Active Ingredient Targets Deadly Brain Cancer”; “Marijuana May Fight Lung Tumors”; “Marijuana Ingredient May Cut Fibromyalgia Pain”; “Cannabis May Help Multiple Sclerosis”; ” Pot-Based Drug Promising for Arthritis “; “Marijuana Smoking Doesn’t Kill”.

    Or better yet, get yourself a REAL education about cannabis, by running a search for “Granny Storm Crow’s MMJ Reference List”. And I guess you’d rather the dispensary owners to remain felons, rather than turn their lives around as businessment! If you want something RAEL to hassle about run a search for these two articles! “CDC survey finds 1 in 5 youths abuse prescription drugs” and “Sniffing Trumps Weed for 12-Year-Olds- Potentially Lethal Inhalants More Commonly Used by 12-Year-Olds than Marijuana, Cocaine and Hallucinogens Combined”. Those are actual dangers to our children- not cannabis, that has yet to cause a single overdose fatality! Educate yourself! Thank you.

  • Lacy Cronkhite

    The last I checked JR, if I needed vicoden or ambien I could purchase this from my pharmacy. I understand the value that marijuana can provide to people suffering from certain diseases… but come on…If you want to be taken seriously, then the distribution of this drug should have been taken seriously… Read the head lines… The DEA says that more then 30% of these owners have previous drug records and are now looking at being shut down… To get licensed you only have to be clear of any felons for the last 5 years… and pot shops are now cropping up near schools and churches. If this drug is as important as the research says, then you JR, as a supporter should be extremely angry on how this valuable drug was released to the public for the first time… Because all it looks like to me, is the valuable research was tossed under the bus for the increased tax revenue it has brought into the state. It doesn’t matter what the facts are JR when it comes to bad press… It’s the perception…

  • BosleyGrandma

    So Lacy, how do you explain to your teenagers that it’s ok to take vicoden or ambien when you “need” it but it’s not okay otherwise? How do you explain to your teenagers that alcohol is ok for you to drink, but not them – after all it is legal. As a parent it is your responsiblity is to explain as best you can the ways of the world whether you agree or not. I’m an old woman, have survived cancer, have had more surgeries than most and know how deadly our legal narcotics are and choose to shun then and use medical marijuana instead. I raised my children with the truth (which I researched), and none of them do drugs. According to nay sayers I am a thug, criminal, and have heard much worse from ignorant people because I am a medical marijuan user. Unfortunately even at my age I am still amazed at how people would rather spout untruths as fact without even bothering to look at any facts – facts just confuse the issue if you want to remain ignorant.

  • Lacy Cronkhite

    Let me be clear.. I am not against medical marijuana.. especially if it helps with medical issues.. what I am against is how the state decided to distribute this drug. All of these costs have increased the price, so people who really need it, can’t afford it.. This is an important issue and can help many people.. so they should of taken the distribution of this drug seriously.. The distribution of this drug should of looked no different then going to my Pharmacist to pick up ambien.. but that did not happen.. the state was broke and they saw a way to push revenue through the front door and they jumped at it.. So now look at what’s happening… because the state handled this poorly and the fact they have zero common since they only person who will get the short end of the stick are the sick people who could benefit from this.. as supporters of this, you should be pissed off.