Lafayette City Council unanimously voted last night to pass an eight-month moratorium on all marijuana-related businesses, including the city's lone cannabis-friendly coffee shop. Veronica Carpio, owner of the Front Tea and Arts Shop -- which allows adults 21 and over to use vaporizers during certain hours of the week -- says the ban was specifically aimed at her business.
Carpio believes her shop is protected under Amendment 64.
The ban would end on July 1, when state legislators are expected to have finalized rules governing the recreational marijuana industry.
Carpio's attorney, Jeff Gard, points to language in Amendment 64 that allows municipalities to ban and regulate marijuana establishments, defined specifically as places that cultivate, test, manufacture or sells marijuana. Carpio's business doesn't fit into any of those categories because she is merely providing a private place for consenting adults to vaporize cannabis, Gard says. And Carpio says the community is behind her, citing the overwhelming majority of Lafayette voters who voted for Amendment 64 in the November election.
Gard also points to language in 64 that allows for landlords and property owners to ban or regulate marijuana consumption on their property. In his opinion, this section gives Carpio the right to regulate its use in her private business -- one reason they plan to appeal the ban.
But Lafayette officials say A64 language that prohibits public consumption of cannabis undermines Gard's theory. Despite Carpio's claims that all vaporizing is being done in a private business out of view of the public, they charge that she is still inviting people into her establishment for public consumption.
Mayor pro-tem Steve Kracha denies that the ban was aimed at Carpio. Instead, he says it was passed because Lafayette needs time while the state irons out the new laws. "We're not saying no marijuana," he said at the meeting at which the ban passed. "We're saying there's something going on. It's a big change and we're going to plan for it."
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"They believe that open and public display includes businesses like Veronica's," Gard notes. "That is what is going to be debated. Is open-and-public display meant to restrict people to their own homes, or can it also mean that adults can get together and patronize somewhere specific to their interests? Since when can like-minded people not gather together? As long as you're letting the public know they are entering a private establishment that allows cannabis, what is the problem? If you don't want to be around alcohol, nobody is forcing you to get your burger from the local bar."
Lafayette isn't the only community broadly interpreting the new law. City officials in Greenwood Village have passed measures banning use, transportation or possession of marijuana on city property -- which they define as including all public streets and sidewalks. That essentially means that in Greenwood Village, you can't have marijuana anywhere but inside your own house, and the Greenwood Village City Council is working to chip away at that as well with talk of home-cultivation limits and regulations. At a recent meeting, Greenwood Village mayor pro-tem Gary Kramer said he would "vote to ban any possession, use or transportation of marijuana within the city of Greenwood Village at all, by anyone for any amount."
Gard, who isn't involved in the Greenwood Village situation, says that town is making a big mistake in proposing such regulations. "They are going to have a lot of trouble with that," he says. "It's very clear that the primary right [of Amendment 64] was to possess and transport marijuana. That is the very heart of it. The city maintains the streets and they clean them sometimes, but to prohibit people from carrying their marijuana around because they think they own the streets is another thing entirely."
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: At Legal Chronic Delivery, the weed is free, but the bumper sticker costs $50" and "Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013: Read Jared Polis-sponsored bill."