For Summit County law enforcement, 2009 was a year of cannabis confusion |

For Summit County law enforcement, 2009 was a year of cannabis confusion

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Summit Daily/Mark Fox

SUMMIT COUNTY – Medical marijuana – the burning topic of statewide relevance in 2009 – presented a distinct challenge to local law enforcers as the state offered virtually no guidance on how to handle the dispensaries opening across the map.

The burden of regulating the blooming business locally led to wastes of taxpayer dollars investigating legal operations and a particularly bizarre story of the apparent explosion at a hashish-making operation after which no legal charges were filed.

“I’d never seen anything like that,” Summit County Sheriff John Minor said of the explosion, which seriously injured a man and a woman near Breckenridge.

The medical pot industry “has kind of changed the whole landscape,” he said.

Minor said that if he or undersheriff Derek Woodman were told three years ago that either of them would be standing in a basement of a large and legal marijuana grow operation, it would have elicited laughter.

Minor said he understands the use of marijuana for people in chronic pain – among other reasons for which licenses are issued – but that it seems suspicious when young people are able to get such a license for an earache.

The folks at Summit County Sheriff’s Office have spent considerable time with attorneys and colleagues across the state as they try to keep track of marijuana laws and proposed changes regarding marijuana in 2009.

Enforcement inconsistencies among Summit and neighboring counties are a reflection of “no clear guidance in the law,” Minor said.

The proliferation of medical marijuana was under way in spring 2009 – shortly after President Obama’s administration announced it wouldn’t go after marijuana users and suppliers in compliance with state law.

Entering 2010, Minor said he hopes the statewide medical marijuana license database made more accessible to law enforcers investigating grow operations. Existing restrictions require his office to fax a possible license holder’s information to Denver during normal business hours, Monday through Friday.

“We need to take advantage of technology to solve this problem,” Minor said.

Because of complications with the process, as much as 70 percent of the Sheriff’s Office marijuana-growing busts resulted in no charges and wasted efforts.

“You’re almost to the point where you say, ‘Is it worth it?'” Minor said.

Breckenridge police chief Rick Holman said he hopes more rules are established to “rein in” the dispensary industry.

“There are more dispensaries in Los Angeles than Starbucks,” he said, adding that “I don’t even know what we’ve got approved – five or six opening in Breckenridge.”

A recent judicial ruling on Centennial’s decision to ban dispensaries appears to have set a precedent to prevent any Colorado community from banning the business.

And in a time of economic shortfalls, many towns are benefiting from tax dollars the dispensaries bring. Frisco’s first dispensary, Medical Marijuana of the Rockies, reportedly raked in about $30,000 in its first month of operation.

Robert Allen can be contacted at (970) 668-4628 or

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