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City council wrestles with medical marijuana licensing

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A deadlocked city council has left licensing requirements for medical marijuana facilities in the City of Delta unresolved. If an answer isn't found -- and fairly quickly -- state regulations will take effect and any attempt to exert local control will be lost. That includes a cap of two on each type of license, a point on which there's been no disagreement among council members.

The agenda for their Jan. 22 meeting included the second reading of two ordinances, one on zoning for medical marijuana and the other on licensing. Upon approval, both would take effect 30 days after publication in the Delta County Independent.

The zoning ordinance passed 3-1 with little discussion. The dissenting vote was cast by Mayor Ron Austin; council member Christopher Ryan was absent.

"I only hope we've covered all the bases we need to cover," said council member Gerald Roberts.

Licensing regulations proved to be more controversial, with citizens Orval Proctor and Scott Schaible continuing to voice their objections. Both urged council members to take their time and do more research. Schaible said the council's 3-2 votes are "hijacking" the city and the city council.

Mayor Austin reiterated his concern about the ability to purchase 2 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles every 24 hours, which he believes could lead to "stockpiling."

"Until that process is restricted I can not support or condone the enabling of this activity in our community and I feel very strongly about that," he said, adding that he has no concerns about the legitimate use of medical marijuana.

Although state law already prohibits possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana, council member Kevin Carlson wondered if the city could limit the frequency of purchases. He would also like to limit the type of facility, to reflect the size of our community. The state licensing structure places medical marijuana centers into one of three categories, depending on the number of patients -- 1-300, 301-500 and 501 or more.

After a motion was made to adopt the licensing regulations on second reading, Roberts said he would be voting nay.

"I realize the citizens of the City of Delta did pass on this, but the conversations I am having with people that I represent are saying no. That's the will of the people I represent who have talked to me."

With council member Christopher Ryan absent, and Austin voting nay with Roberts, the vote was split 2-2.

McConaughy quickly reviewed the city charter before determining there was nothing to preclude reconsideration of the ordinance on second reading. The presence of all five council members would eliminate the possibility of a tie vote.

At the next meeting on Feb. 5, McConaughy promised to have answers to two lingering questions -- the ability of the city to limit the type of facility and the ability of the city to limit the frequency of purchases.

"Until there's a majority vote to deny this ordinance, we can try again," he said.

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