The subject of medical marijuana dominated both a work session and the regular meeting of the Delta City Council on Jan. 8, but the evening ended on a musical note. Under the heading of "Only in Delta," Judy Hagan picked up her microphone and sang "Happy Birthday" to the mayor, with a refrain that included blessings from her mother in heaven.
During the business portion of the meeting, the discussion on medical marijuana resulted in a 4-1 vote to extend the moratorium on medical marijuana establishments three months from the initial date of Feb. 13. No applications for medical marijuana establishments or applications for building permits related to those establishments will be accepted until May 13, unless the council lifts the moratorium before then.
Council member Christopher Ryan voted "no," citing a desire to keep moving forward.
Extension of the moratorium followed two separate votes to table the second readings of zoning and licensing ordinances until the Jan. 22 meeting, to allow council members more time for "due diligence." Both questions passed on split votes.
During the work session and the regular meeting, citizens had an opportunity to express their thoughts. Council member Kevin Carlson encouraged members of the public to continue to share research they've done on the subject, so council can gain a broader understanding of issues and concerns. Having heard that licensing fees in Delta might be on the low end, he said that's a specific area he wants to look into. "We don't want to be the cheap town," he said, reiterating a comment business owner Hartland Clubb Jr. made earlier in the meeting.
Mayor Ron Austin says he wants clarification on state regulations concerning the allowable quantity and frequency of purchases.
Once the regulations are in place and the moratorium has been lifted, applications for medical marijuana establishments will be accepted. A maximum of two of each type of license will be granted through a lottery system.
John Thomas, owner of a medical marijuana center in Montrose, has expressed a desire to do business in Delta as well. He previously owned a medical marijuana store in Delta until council voted to prohibit that type of business.
He said when it comes to zoning, it's smart for council to take its time and do things right. He said a medical marijuana center doesn't need to be on Main Street, but it should be located in a well-lit, easily accessible area where patients and employees will feel safe.
He added that having employees who respect the medical aspects of marijuana and respect the community is key to keeping products out of the hands of minors.
Several individuals expressed a desire to provide an opportunity to an individual like Thomas, who has family and community ties, as opposed to mega-corporations that will presumably also want to do business in Delta. Scott Schaible, an outspoken opponent of marijuana, visited Thomas's shop and said he likes the way Thomas does business. He said he believes the City of Delta owes Thomas an opportunity to open a store here, since the actions of a previous council forced him to close down.
Concerns about odors emanating from marijuana grow facilities are crossing over to hemp, which is being stored and processed in several warehouses in city limits. The Delta Planning and Zoning Commission will be asked to address hemp, while the medical marijuana questions will come back to council on Jan. 22.