By Rick Langenberg:
Even with most local municipalities and regional governments saying no to marijuana shops in their communities, elected leaders in Green Mountain Falls want more input from the citizens, prior to enacting any more reefer prohibitions. In a somewhat surprising move, the GMF Board of Trustees last week posed one overriding question pertaining to a proposed law banning any type of marijuana business in the town: What is the rush?
Moreover, they set a public meeting for June 4 to further discuss the town’s marijuana situation and declined to approve a proposed measure, outlawing cannabis outlets.
At issue is a proposed anti-pot ordinance that City Clerk Chris Frandina described as an extension of a previous law that banned medical marijuana dispensaries. “The ordinance does not prohibit any of the (constitutional) rights,” said the city clerk, in reference to Amendment 64 passed by the voters of Colorado last November. This law makes it legal for adults to consume and grow a limited amount of cannabis for recreational purposes. But at the same time, it allows local communities to opt out and ban marijuana stores and cannabis cultivation centers and testing areas in their communities.
Frandina and town attorney Lisa Tormoen Hickey stressed that the proposed marijuana prohibition mainly follows the spirit of a previous law the trustees approved in 2011. At the time, town leaders took a strong position in outlawing medicinal marijuana outlets. But several trustees questioned the timing of the new anti-pot action. “I would like to see how it shakes out,” said trustee and former mayor Tyler Stevens, in describing state actions regarding marijuana. He also expressed concerns about how such a prohibition may impact the entrepreneurial pursuits of future local business operators, but didn’t delve into details.
Several other trustees, while not exactly waving a pro-marijuana banner, agreed that the town may be acting too hastily in enacting an all-out ban against cannabis-related businesses. “I am in favor of not doing anything,” said Trustee Howard Price. Most trustees agreed and set June 4 as the date of a public hearing.
Green Mountain Falls Police Chief Tim Bradley admitted the entire scenario surrounding legal weed is quite confusing. “To me, it is so cloudy,” said the police chief, who didn’t give the trustees any set recommendations. He indicated the regulations surrounding Amendment 64 are changing on a daily basis. And with some of the rules and proposed taxes, Bradley questioned if pot stores may be feasible. He cited edible marijuana products as another aspect of the law that is quite ambiguous. He also hinted of a problem in determining if people are growing pot for recreational or business purposes. “I am not if favor of marijuana, personally,” said the police chief, who cited problems with the drug based on his previous law enforcement experience. But that said, he concluded that the town doesn’t have a clear direction in dealing with recreational pot and needs more guidance.
The city attorney indicated that the town does face a deadline if it wants to ban marijuana businesses, but she didn’t see any problems in delaying action regarding this issue.
Time running out for action
The marijuana time clock, though, is definitely ticking for Green Mountain Falls and other local governments.
Last week, the Colorado legislature, in a historic decision, passed the first laws in the country that set the stage for the creation of marijuana retail stores for adults in the country, starting in January 2014. But they also set a series of rather stern regulations. Under the action of state lawmakers, marijuana sold at retail shops could face a 25 percent tax, if voters give the okay this Novembers. They will decide the fate of a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax. This could provide extra money for schools and for regulating the industry.
Also, under the new rules, it will be illegal for Colorado motorists to operate a vehicle, while they are stoned, with penalties rivaling drunk driving citations. In probably the most controversial aspect of the new marijuana regulations, the legislators came up with a testing system to determine if someone is too stoned to drive. The new laws also ban any types of marijuana coffee shops and clubs and pot smoking in bars and government-run cannabis stores. Limited options will be available for non-Colorado adult residents to purchase pot. And under the proposed system of pot retail outlets, current operators of medicinal marijuana outlets will have the initial opportunity to apply for the new recreational pot business licenses.
Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the new laws, described as a balance between the pro-cannabis coalition and those who oppose these new marijuana retail outlets. Even Attorney General John Suthers, a staunch opponent of the marijuana industry, complimented state lawmakers for doing a “credible job” in adopting the new regulations.
The new measures, though, still don’t address any potential conflicts between state and federal guidelines regarding pot. Marijuana is still considered an illegal, controlled substance in the eyes of the feds. But ever since Colorado and Washington voters okayed the limited use of marijuana for recreational purposes, key federal regulators have remained silent regarding what type of action they may take. President Obama, in a television interview, briefly stated that these types of marijuana cases in states that have advocated the drug’s limited use wouldn’t become a high priority for his administration, but was extremely vague about any enforcement details.