Council Considers Cap on Medical Marijuana Licenses
by Peter Shelton
May 17, 2012 | 1049 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RIDGWAY - As the July 1 lifting of the statewide moratorium on medical marijuana licensing approaches, Ridgway Town Council found itself debating where and how many.

Town Clerk Pam Kraft first outlined the fees the town would be collecting, including new application fees of $2,500 for dispensaries and infused-product manufacturers (tinctures, oils, cookies, etc.), annual license fees of $750, and renewal fees of $250.

“Our application form mimics what the state has done,” Kraft explained, “and also what Telluride has done.”

New councilmember Jason Gunning, a social studies teacher at Ridgway Secondary School, asked, “Is there a city sales tax” on top of the licensing fees? “Yes,” said Kraft.

“And what’s to keep a kid from jumping the fence,” Gunning asked, “and becoming the most popular kid in school?”

Councilor Ellen Hunter acknowledged that Gunning was probably referring to a cultivation operation, which are also allowed in certain zones in town. But, “They are all indoors,” Hunter explained. “A grow facility is not publically accessed. There is no revolving door.”

As the town’s ordinance stands now, public hearings would be required for dispensary and infused-product businesses, as they are for liquor licenses. The grow-ops, because they are not open to the public – and their locations were, until recently, kept secret – do not require a public hearing.

Town Manager Jen Coates and Town Attorney John Kappa both asked if public hearings were necessary. If, perhaps, council might want to require hearings for all three types of businesses, or for none of them.

Kappa said he was “concerned that there will be opposition and enough money at stake that major litigation could be very expensive for the town.”

“What if,” Councillor Rick Weaver asked, “we don’t have any more criteria [for licensing]. Could we end up with 10 of ’em?”

“Yes,” came Kraft’s answer. “But we could limit the number. We could set a cap.”

“Mayor John Clark summed up: “I’m hearing that maybe we consider a cap. Limit the number of licenses to five total? Shall we instruct staff to look into what other communities have done?”

“And,” Coates added with some urgency, “come back to you with an emergency ordinance by the June meeting?” (In order to beat the July 1 state deadline.)

“Yes,” said Mayor Clark.


At last week’s regular town council meeting, Mayor John Clark asked his fellows on council to consider signing a letter of support for national efforts to reverse the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, the one that allows unlimited, unreported corporate spending on political campaigns.

“Can the little town of Ridgway impact this?” Clark asked rhetorically. “No. But it’s about everyone taking a stand.”

He got almost unanimous agreement from the council.

Councilor Eric Johnson said Citizens United had “taken the small voices out of the process.”

Councilor Rick Weaver said, “I think it is a threat to democracy.”

Clark: “Money changes everything.”

Only Councilor Jason Gunning disagreed. “I have real problems with that. As someone who studies government and the constitution, I don’t think you can argue that money isn’t speech.” If we’re going to write a letter “maybe we should open it up to a vote of the town?”

Weaver responded, “No, we’re not saying this is a letter from the town, it’s a letter from the town council.”

From the audience, bookstore owner Pricilla Peters asked, “Didn’t we write a resolution apposing the invasion of Iraq?”

“Yes, and we caught a lot of grief for that [locally],” Clark remembered. “I’m comfortable bringing this up for conversation at the next meeting.”

“It’s a good thing for us to talk about,” added Councillor Jim Kavanaugh.

“Would you like a draft resolution?” asked Town Manager Jen Coates.

“I’ll work on one,” Clark concluded.


Councilmember Jason Gunning pointed out at Ridgway’s May council meeting last week that, “Apparently, there is no town scholarship” for graduating Ridgway High School seniors.

Fellow councilors agreed that it would be a good thing but wondered if there was enough money in the town’s discretionary fund, and whether there was time to award a scholarship with just weeks left in the current school year.

Councilor Jim Kavanaugh echoed Gunning’s logic to get something started, even at this late date. “We’ve reached out to the school this year, inviting the students to come and learn about town government, and in our joint project with them to find and designate sister towns in Central America. We could use the $1,000 we just didn’t spend on the Southwest Conservation Corps program.”

“It would be great to reward kids for community service,” Gunning suggested, “for contributions to the town itself: working on the skate park, for example, or the three we just heard (RHS 10th-graders Tashi Hackett, Grace Benasutti and Leta McNatt) on the sister-town project.”

“Can we even find a deserving student in time for the May 23 Awards Banquet?” asked Councilor Rick Weaver.

In the end, Mayor John Clark moved that the town create “a $500 town scholarship, for post-secondary education, awarded to a RHS senior who demonstrated a notable contribution to the Town of Ridgway.” And that an instant committee consisting of councilors Gunning, Kavanaugh and Eric Johnson be formed to write up the criteria, get “the word out” to school counselor Rick Williams, and find a candidate for this year.
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