OWN survey: Support for MMJ & regulations
But public wish for neighborhood protection not reflected in proposal by Planning Commission

       Seventy-two percent of Westsiders overwhelmingly believe medical marijuana is needed, but also strongly favor regulations that would mitigate related businesses' impacts on neighborhoods, based on a survey conducted this fall by the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN).

Proposed regulations on medical marijuana facilities would ban them in residential zones; but not from neighboring homes in mixed-use zones such as in the C-5 on Colorado Avenue (as seen on either side of the dispensary at 1730 W. Colorado).
Westside Pioneer photo

       At the same time, the idea of restricting medical marijuana (MMJ) facilities to “high commercial and industrial” zones came just short of a majority, at 48.1 percent of the survey respondents.
       In all, OWN received 171 responses by Nov. 30 to the 17-question survey that ran in its quarterly newsletter in October, according to OWN President Welling Clark.
       The objective of the survey was to “quantify Westside citizen opinions regarding the growth of the medicinal marijuana industry in the Westside strategy area [and] to provide this information to elected officials to assist in decision making,” he states in a written summary accompanying the results.
       OWN's release of the survey results this week comes just ahead of the City Council meetings Dec. 13 and 14, when the body is scheduled to consider an array of regulations for MMJ sales, manufacturing and/or growing facilities, starting with those recommended by the City Planning Commission Nov. 18.

An elegant awning covers the 25th Street entrance to an upstairs dispensary in the historic Waycott Building in Old Colorado City.
Westside Pioneer photo

ABOVE: One of the medical marijuana dispensaries that didn't make it (1502 W. Colorado Ave.) although its owners paid $500 for a preapplication before the city's July 1 deadline. The name, "Select Health Resources," is covered by a "For Rent" sign. BELOW: The Beatles-inspired name, “Strawberry Fields,” is the name of a dispensary at 3404 W. Colorado Ave. It is one of several centers in converted houses that neighbor residences in the avenue’s C-5 zone.
Westside Pioneer photos


       The public hearing portion of that consideration will be Dec. 14.
       OWN prevented survey abuse by tying each response to a mailing label from the roughly 8,000 addresses to which it direct-mails its newsletters, according to Clark. He also believes that a “confidence point for the survey” is that its raw results “closely matches” how the Westside voted in the countywide November ballot issue (1A) seeking a ban on dispensaries. In that vote, which barely failed overall, 63.7 percent voted against the ban in the older-Westside Neighborhood Strategy Area (NSA) for which OWN is the city-recognized advocacy group.
       Mostly following what city staff had proposed, the Planning Commission's recommendations included disallowing MMJ facilities in residential zones as well as in locations that are up to 1,000 feet from schools, child care and drug/alcohol treatment sites.
       However, the Planning Commission/city staff suggested no standoff restrictions on MMJ proximity to homes in mixed-use areas. This has been a concern on the Westside, particularly regarding the C-5 zone along West Colorado Avenue, in which businesses and homes are often next door to each other, and residential zones are on the other side of the alleys north and south of the avenue.
       (In a Westside Pioneer review, 19 of the 29 dispensaries currently operating on the Westside were found to be 200 feet or less from a residence. See story and graph, Page 10.)

Jeromie Nazzise is the "bud tender" at the Westside Wellness Center, 2200 Bott Ave.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The OWN survey asked several questions regarding standoffs from neighborhoods. These were:
       72.4 percent for an ordinance mirroring the county's standoff from liquor stores - although that distance (500 feet) was not stated in the survey. The city's liquor store standoff is 200 feet, according to the Zoning Code.
       77.8 percent for ordinances that “take into account the unique issues associated with mixed-use neighborhoods, such as those on the Westside.”
       82.8 percent for “standoff distances homes/ schools/churches/etc. at a minimum equal to that of liquor store criteria.
       28.1 for MMJ facilities “immediately adjacent to homes.”
       According to Clark, at some point in the future “OWN will be assembling a relational analysis” from the the survey's raw data.
       All the questions appear below, preceded by the percent of respondents saying yes:
       72.2 - Do you believe there's a need for medicinal marijuana (MMJ)?
       32.5 - Should the city of Colorado Springs ban medicinal marijuana facilities (MMF)?
       37.3 - Should the city place a ballot issue for banning MMFs within city limits on the ballot for voter approval, as El Paso County did on the November 2010 ballot?
       58.3 - Regardless the decision to refer the question of MMFs to the ballot, does the city need immediate stringent regulation for those MMFs currently in operation?
       33.3 - Do city ordinances adequately address MMF establishments and density?
       72.4 - Should the city adopt an MMF ordinance, that in concept, mirrors the El Paso county MMF ordinance/ (i.e., using liquor store standoff distances and variance processes).
       77.8 - Should MMF ordinances take into account the unique issues associated with mixed-use neighborhoods, such as those on the Westside (buffer distances, establishment density, land use review, public process and notification, neighborhood compatibility, etc)?
       82.8 - Should MMF standoff distances from homes/schools/churches/etc be at a minimum equal to that of liquor store criteria?
       74.4 - Should MMF separation distances from other MMFs be at a minimum equal to that of liquor store criteria?
       48.1 - Should MMFs be restricted to high commercial and industrial zones; or else use a variance process?
       39.0 - Should MMFs only be allowed in industrial zoned regions?
       28.1 - Should the city allow MMFs to be immediately adjacent to homes?
       56.6 - Should the city conduct monthly auditing of MMFs to monitor those people issuing prescriptions and those making purchasers?
       81.1 - Should the city notify parents of minors receiving MMJ?
       59.0 - Should the CSPD and 4th Judicial district Attorney's Office use monthly audit data so that they may prosecute to the full/maximum extent of the law those that abuse the implementation of medicinal marijuana (i.e., criminal usage)?
       48.8 - Should the city prevent MMFs from using the term “wellness” in the business titles? (i.e., to avoid continued confusion regarding current non-MMJ wellness centers already in operation)?
       83.0 - Does the city have an obligation and a duty to properly regulate and enforce city ordinances with regard to unique commercial operations in mixed-use neighborhoods?

Westside Pioneer article