Woodland Park Joins Anti-Cannabis Bandwagon

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by Rick Langenberg:

 

 

It’s now Woodland Park’s turn to join the growing chorus of marijuana nay-saying—at least when it comes to banning cannabis retail shops, cultivation hubs, pot clubs and even outdoor reefer plants.

Last week, the Woodland Park City Council, following a lengthy discussion, approved the initial reading of a new ordinance that calls for an all-out prohibition of marijuana-related businesses and set a public hearing for June 6. Currently, the city has a moratorium against these outlets, but that ban expires on July 1.

Woodland’s proposed five-page anti-pot law sparked a bevy of questions from elected leaders. Several council members grilled city attorney Erin Smith about their choices, the conflicts between state and federal regulations and inquired what other jurisdictions are doing. In essence, Smith told the council they must either okay a marijuana business ban or set the stage for regulating future cannabis retail stores and cultivation and testing sites. And unlike some of the proposed bans, the Woodland Park ordinance is much more detailed and even prohibits the growth of any marijuana plants, outside a local residence. It also includes more specific rules against the possible creation of marijuana clubs than what is listed in other cannabis prohibition laws. In fact, if the city does nothing, then Smith fears that the door could open slightly for the formation of pot membership clubs. “There is that gap,” said Smith, in referring to when the city’s original moratorium would end in early July, and the legal formation of new marijuana retail stores next January. She cited these pending clubs as one reason for enacting a city marijuana ordinance, instead of just continuing with a moratorium.

The council, similar to the attitude of other elected bodies in the region, expressed much bafflement over the issue. Since the Teller County government has already imposed a ban, they wondered why they have to address the ban.

Smith, though, explained that Teller’s recently approved ban, which was only okayed by a 2-1 vote, applies to the unincorporated sections of the county. And because, Woodland Park is a home-rule city, it has more regulatory powers, noted Smith.

The attorney, though, made it clear that the ordinance is drafted, according to the provisions of Amendment 64, the state law that permits the legal consumption of a limited amount of marijuana for adults. According to Smith, this law made it legal for adults to use marijuana, but “there is no vehicle for them to purchase the marijuana.”“We are doing what the constitution says?” asked Councilman Eric Smith, who expressed some confusion over the difference between the federal and state laws regarding pot.

The city attorney replied that the Woodland Park proposed action deals specifically with the state constitution, which now includes a pro-marijuana law.Several council members also inquired what financial advantages the city could reap, if it decides to permit and regulate marijuana retail shops. Based on recent actions of the state legislature, Colorado voters will decide on a possible 25 percent excise and sales tax on the purchase of legal weed at marijuana retail shops.

Attorney Erin Smith maintained that Woodland Park, if it decides to have cannabis retail outlets, could only impose a local sales tax. She said the city would have the ability to regulate and tax these future businesses, but would have certain limitations. Councilman Eric Smth wanted to know specifically how Woodland Park voted on Amendment 64 issue. The pro-pot proposition passed overwhelmingly across the state and was okayed by a slight majority in Teller County. But how did Woodland Park residents cast their tallies, asked the councilman. He hinted that could play a role in what action the council takes.

City Manager David Buttery stated that the staff would try to research this subject in more detail, but didn’t make any guarantees. He stressed that the November vote was handled by the county clerk’s office. During the forthcoming public hearing, the city attorney stated that she would provide more details regarding what other jurisdictions are doing across the state.

Since the approval of Amendment 64, city and county governments have been on a speed track in efforts to develop bans or additional regulations. At the same time, state lawmakers have faced a stringent deadline in developing new rules for future marijuana retail stores and providing more checks and balances, such as setting rules against driving a motor vehicle while legally stoned. Recently, the state approved a laundry list of regulations for new recreational pot stores, which can open their doors next January. But as part of Amendment 64, local entities can opt out and ban these businesses in their communities altogether.

Locally, pot-related prohibitions have been enacted in the cities of Cripple Creek and Victor, along with Teller, Park and El Paso counties. Green Mountain Falls recently decided to put the issue on hold. And Colorado Springs is now mulling its options and is scheduling a variety of hearings.