Marijuana: Lakewood bans pot businesses, but voters could allow retail shops

Lakewood has become the latest city in Colorado to ban cannabis businesses. But voters will decide in November if retail marijuana shops should be allowed.

See also: Marijuana: Littleton City Council takes step toward banning retail pot businesses

During a meeting Monday night, the Lakewood City Council voted to ban marijuana businesses such as cultivation facilities, infused-product manufacturers, marijuana-smoking clubs and research labs, as well as outlawing hash oil extractions. However, council members agreed to let Lakewood residents decide the future of retail dispensaries at the ballot box on November 4.

Ward 5 Councilwoman Karen Harrison proposed to add retail dispensaries to the ban and skip the public vote, but the motion was denied.

The meeting, which lasted more than five hours, had a large amount of public input, with most speakers supporting prohibition.

Colorado Christian University President and former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong strongly advocated for the ban, claiming CCU would lose potential students and Lakewood's reputation would be tarnished if the city allowed pot sales and more.

"It's a fact and it's been published: Marijuana and the use of marijuana has been implicated in serious misbehavior, delusions, hallucinations and in some cases, violent acts," Armstrong said.

Armstrong and many other Lakewood residents attending the meeting asked the city council to ban retail marijuana on the spot and not to leave it up to the people to decide. However, the majority of council members were reluctant to give in to the pressure.

"We have a large, vocal group here tonight, and we can't discount what you're saying," Ward 4 Councilman Adam Paul said. "But how can you ask us to discount the 49,000 people who voted in favor of Amendment 64?"

During the meeting, Lakewood Mayor Bob Murphy said a significant majority of voters passed Amendment 64 in all five geographical areas of the city and stressed the importance of a local democracy.

"I cannot be presumptive enough in my own mind to say that I know what was in the mind of the voters when they fairly overwhelmingly passed Amendment 64," Murphy explained before voting. "I think it's reasonable to ask them."

Although the voice of the people has yet to be fully heard, most of the council had very strong opinions in regard to allowing retail cannabis inside the city -- and disagreements sometimes came from within the same areas.

"It is unconscionable to subject our city to this barrage of money," Ward 1 Councilwoman Ramey Johnson said of potential tax revenue during the meeting. "Let's do the right thing and ban it tonight."

Karen Kellen, Ward 1's other council member, saw it from a different perspective.

"This isn't about money. This isn't about more revenue for the city," Kellen said. "This is about a failed drug policy. It's a policy that has disproportionally impacted people of color, and it's a policy that's done nothing to alleviate the addiction problems we have in this country."

Medical marijuana dispensaries weren't included in the ban, but Lakewood isn't issuing permits for new locations.

Electronic hand-held vaporizers were also banned in public areas in Lakewood such as movie theaters, restaurants and elevators. The ban treats vaporizers in the same fashion as tobacco. Council members said they were concerned Lakewood residents were vaporizing cannabis products in public.

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell