A Tale of Two Pot Cities

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by Rick Langenberg:

 

 

 

When it comes to enforcing the complex rules regarding recreational marijuana, Teller’s two main cities are taking slightly different reefer paths.

Last week, the Cripple Creek City Council, as expected, wasted little time in banning the commercial sale of marijuana within the town limits as permitted through Amendment 64 (the law legalizing the limited use of recreational marijuana in Colorado for adults). By a unanimous vote, the council okayed the first reading of a new amendment that extends its current ban against medical marijuana establishments to include recreational cannabis businesses and related sales activities. Several council members commented that they have received strong support for outlawing any commercial outlets for selling pot, and displayed little desire to wait until the state finalizes its rules. And down the hill an evening later, the city of Woodland Park also addressed the recreational marijuana landscape, but in a slightly different and more tolerant manner. Woodland’s elected leaders finalized a new law that basically reaffirms a hands-off approach to adult consumption and cultivation of pot, but wants to give teens that are cited for marijuana offenses a second chance.

The city of Woodland Park in essence amended its previous anti-marijuana rules to comply with the legal provisions of Amendment 64, passed overwhelmingly by the voters of Colorado. In fact, adults will no longer be cited for marijuana use by local law officers, under this amendment. In addition, the new Woodland Park law would keep teen marijuana cases under the jurisdiction of the municipal court and would do away with jail sentences. The city also would try to keep teens, apprehended for marijuana offenses, out of the juvenile and state court system, which would keep their records devoid of criminal citations.

Under this provision, kids caught for smoking pot would face the scrutiny of their peers through Woodland Park’s highly successful teen court system. This benefit, though, would probably be permitted only for a first offense. After that, teens apprehended for marijuana offenses would have to deal with county and state prosecutors. The council heavily supported this approach, recommended by Woodland Park Police Chief Bob Larson. As for future adult marijuana arrests, Larson has stated that the city needs to wait for more guidance, especially for actions that exceed the limits of Amendment 64.

According to Larson, the far majority of adult-related marijuana cases now stem from other arrests, such as domestic violence citations. As for an all-out ban against commercial outlets of recreational pot, the city previously opted to declare a temporary moratorium on issuing any permits or addressing any plans for allowing these types of establishments. That’s a slight deviation from leaders of Cripple Creek, who had consistently declared the gaming community as a no-cannabis zone.

Although leaders from both towns are taking a slightly different approach, council representatives from both cities are concerned about the impacts of Amendment 64. Woodland Park Councilwoman Carrol Harvey last week grilled City Attorney Erin Smith about marijuana developments on the state level. Smith replied that she didn’t have much to report, other than the formation of a committee by Governor John Hickenlooper to establish more defined rules. One of the new areas of proposed rules would ban non-Colorado residents from legally puffing a joint, even if this activity occurs in Colorado.

On the other side of the marijuana spectrum, some business operators in Denver have actually started the first legal marijuana private establishment, called Club 64 (in recognition of the pro-pot marijuana). The new establishment, which draws comparison to businesses in Amsterdam and other drug havens, permits people to freely smoke pot and indulge in other beverages and snacks, but doesn’t permit any cannabis sales.

This was started somewhat as a celebration of the new law, recently certified by the governor, by proponents of the pro-recreational cannabis movement. Questions, though, still persist over the legality of these types of places. Opinions still widely vary on the subject of legal marijuana, with some requesting that officials take a hard look at the advantages of having local cannabis shops.

Not so fast

During last week’s hearing in Cripple Creek, not everyone supported a ban of local marijuana outlets. Resident Les Batson, who stated that he doesn’t smoke pot, asked the council to delay taking action. He cited the potential for significant tax revenue that the city may lose out on and mentioned the large number of medical marijuana patients in the area. “You could control these places,” said Batson. He questioned why the city is in such a rush to join the prohibition bandwagon regarding the commercial sale of pot. Batson, a frequent speaker at council meetings, noted that eventually a local entity is going to generate major marijuana monies. “Somebody in this county is going to say yes. They are going to reap all the tax benefits,” said the resident.

However, his plea for delaying action on the new anti-pot amendment, wasn’t well received. “People in my district are overwhelmingly against the sales of marijuana,” said Councilman Chris Hazlett. “I don’t know if the small amount of marijuana revenue (the city may receive) is worth the hassle,” said Mayor Bruce Brown.

The council will finalize this prohibition action within the next few weeks.