Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett told the county commissioners Tuesday the state's medical marijuana laws need clarification because of discrepancies between what medical marijuana laws allow and other drug laws ban. He said:

Whether dispensaries are even legal remains unclear. Most dispensaries would not meet the definition of primary caregiver, but patients who are prescribed marijuana need to buy it somewhere if they don't want to grow their own.

Commercial growing operations probably are not legal, but if there are dispensaries, it makes sense to have growers to supply them.

Land-use regulations likely will be the next battleground, as some municipalities move to ban dispensaries within their boundaries and others try to regulate where they can locate.

Liquor licensing rules may provide a model for regulating dispensaries. It's legal to sell alcohol, but local zoning and the liquor board regulate who can sell alcohol, where liquor stores and bars may locate and what rules govern each.

Probation rules must accommodate probationers' rights to use marijuana for medical reasons.

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett said Tuesday that the state's medical marijuana laws desperately need more clarity, and he's not interested in prosecuting cases that fall in the gray areas between legalization and prohibition of the drug.

Enforcing marijuana laws is his office's lowest priority, Garnett told the Boulder County commissioners.

"I want to spend as little of my office's resources as possible prosecuting marijuana cases," he said. "I want to be practical and helpful to the medical marijuana community. I also want to be realistic about what the law is."

The commissioners asked Garnett to address the enforcement around medical marijuana after Superior and Broomfield moved to ban medical marijuana dispensaries and comments Garnett made questioning whether dispensaries are legal caused on uproar within the medical marijuana community.

In response to the controversy, a group of dispensary owners will meet Wednesday in Longmont to discuss forming a trade association to self-regulate the industry. They hope to forestall harsher regulations at the state or local level.

Mark Rose, owner of Grateful Meds in Nederland, said in a phone interview that dispensary owners need to be mindful of their impact on the community and remember that not everyone is comfortable with marijuana use.

"The people and the voters of Colorado have given us a great opportunity to do something really great for people," he said. "What really gets me is the people pushing the limits and putting a stick in the eye of the people who didn't vote for this. If you push it too far, the backlash is going to be way worse than what we have now."

In Longmont, a grower tried to lease warehouse space across from a middle school, but the landlord backed out in the

Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett speaks about medical marijuana and dispensaries to the Boulder County commissioners Tuesday. ( PAUL AIKEN )

face of public outcry, Garnett said. Some people want to see commercial growing operations that supply dispensaries. He heard of another dispensary owner who wanted to put in Fussball tables, a non-medical touch for a supposedly medical dispensary.

Garnett said there should be regulations around these issues, similar to the way liquor stores and bars are regulated. But as the law stands, he said, it's not clear whether dispensaries are even allowed by the state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana. That amendment allows "caregivers" to possess marijuana to give to patients.

Garnett said he is convinced by arguments in favor of dispensaries and understands the logic of allowing commercial growing operations to supply them. He also thinks there are strong arguments the state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana does not allow for dispensaries. He does not believe the law allows for commercial growing operations.

Garnett said without either self-regulation or state intervention, more towns may try to ban dispensaries, while others will use zoning to severely limit where they can operate.

Garnett said the Legislature should provide more clarity; his job is to decide which cases to prosecute.

"Trials should be about the facts, not the law," he said. "Cases should not be prosecuted when there is real doubt about what the law is."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or