Saguache County considers new marijuana regulations

Public hearing May 12

by Lisa Cyriacks

Saguache County has marijuana on its agenda. Earlier this year, the County Commissioners convened a Marijuana Task Force to draft and propose updated regulations. Those regulations will be reviewed and comments taken at a public hearing on May 12, 1pm at the Saguache County Road and Bridge meeting room, 305 3rd St., Saguache.

On February 2 the County Commissioners approved increases to the fees paid by marijuana establishments. The Marijuana Use Permit increased from $1,150 to $3,000. At the same time, the Commissioners increase the fees for all other conditional use permits from $650 to $1,000.

The task force met several times in February and March to review the existing regulations and to propose changes in accordance with updates to State statutes. Articles 43.3 and 43.4 currently govern state licensing requirements to sell marijuana.

Reflecting current state legislation, the Land Use regulations limit the number of plants for “home grow” to six plants per adult or 12 plants per household. The person(s) engaged in cultivation of marijuana must be resident on the property. No home grows will be allowed on vacant parcels. Marijuana grown outdoors shall be contained entirely in an area that is completely fenced and screened with a locked gate and security system and shall not be visible from any right of way, any residence or the public. If the person or caregiver is not the owner of the property, renters must provide written consent from the property owner.

Primary caregivers who cultivate medical marijuana must be registered with the state licensing authority (Colorado Department of Public Health) and are required to provide the cultivation operation location, the registration number of each patient, and any extended plant count numbers. Saguache County will also require registration.

No more than six (6) medical marijuana plants may be grown, cultivated and processed by a patient or caregiver and no more than thirty-six (36) medical marijuana plants may be grown, cultivated or processed in a residence, regardless of the number of patients and/or caregivers residing in the residence. If a license is granted by the State of Colorado to grow for 99 plants the landowner may apply for a Conditional Use Permit to allow for this amount of plants. State law stipulates that “only a medical marijuana business licensed and properly authorized pursuant to Article 43.3 of Title 12, C.R.S. may cultivate more than 99 plants.”

All cultivation operations must provide a copy of approved State of Colorado Well Permit or a contract for water. Waste product from the marijuana production shall be disposed of properly so as not to cause contamination of ground water and must be in accordance with applicable Saguache County and State of Colorado Individual Sewage Treatment Facility regulations.

Retail and Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and any related cultivation operations are regulated by the Colorado Department of Revenue and must abide by state regulations.

The proposed changes also include a section on Violations and Enforcement that further define legal possession and use of marijuana for the purposes of law enforcement and allow for inspection of operations. If inspection reveals non-compliance with these regulations the Land Use inspector, Code Enforcement Officer or Administrative Warrant shall pursue the non-compliance violation through proper authority and action as allowed within the Saguache County Land Development Code.

To view the proposed changes, you may contact the Saguache County Land Use Department, PO Box 326, Saguache, CO 81149 or wmaez@saguachecounty-co.gov, or by calling 719-655-2321 or you may view the changes on our website at www.saguachecounty.net.

Written comments will be accepted until Friday, May 6, 2016 at 3 pm, and may be sent by mail to Saguache County Land Use Department at PO Box 326, Saguache, CO 81149 or email to wmaez@saguachecounty-co.gov.

The Marijuana Task Force will be taking up separately regulations for hemp cultivation in Saguache County in May. The commissioners are considering a moratorium on hemp cultivation until the regulations are in place.

Currently Colorado State law permits growing and possessing industrial hemp by persons registered with the Colorado Department of Agricultural and allows for hemp to be grown for commercial or research and development purposes regardless of the size of operation.