Almost seven years after Colorado's first legal sales of recreational marijuana, more towns in the state still ban pot businesses than allow them — and even those that have dispensaries and manufacturing facilities are still slow to consider adding delivery and hospitality services. But a combination of new statewide policies, the upcoming election and economic thirst resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has recently led to more municipalities looking favorably on marijuana businesses throughout Colorado.
Metro and rural communities alike are now looking for ways to spark their budgets, just when brains behind the marijuana industry were preparing to take advantage of the high turnout during this fall's national election. Not all of the efforts to get cannabis measures on the ballot have been successful — Colorado Springs chose against voting on recreational sales — and not every town required such an effort. In Boulder, for example, pre-existing language in the town code allowed medical marijuana delivery to begin without a public vote or city council decision.
A handful of Colorado towns are still considering taking action on new marijuana businesses before the end of the year, however. Among them:
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As the state's marijuana business capital, Denver has led the way for many cannabis regulatory guidelines. The city has been taking its time with marijuana delivery and hospitality options, though, creating a licensing work group of marijuana business stakeholders to advise Denver City Council, which will ultimately decide whether Denver opts into marijuana delivery or expands the city's maligned hospitality program...or both. Socially equitable licensing for those harmed by the War on Drugs has been looming over every Marijuana Licensing Work Group meeting so far, with the MLWG expected to hold a final meeting in late September and send official recommendations to councilmembers before 2021.
Aurora City Council isn't waiting around for Denver to take on marijuana delivery, and nearly voted on the issue in August before ultimately deciding to consider more information on delivery security and socially equitable licensing. The council has been looking into the business practice since last year, and the third-largest city in the metro area looks primed to allow recreational marijuana delivery (there are no medical marijuana dispensaries in Aurora) by 2021, barring a change in direction from the council.
After allowing medical marijuana sales for a decade, Lakewood could finally allow the retail side within its borders if a new initiative gains enough support. The proposed ordinance is expected to appear on Lakewood's November ballot, since proponents submitted 6,671 official signatures (over 1,000 more than required) in support of the question. If approved, the ordinance would legalize recreational marijuana dispensaries and production facilities, with many of the details to be crafted by the city. According to a poll paid for by recreational marijuana proponents, 73 percent of Lakewood voters support recreational marijuana sales, with all five districts reporting at least a 68 percent approval rate. Lakewood residents have voted down recreational marijuana before, though, with Colorado Christian University a vocal opponent.
The same group pushing recreational marijuana in Lakewood is spearheading a similar ballot campaign in Littleton. Like Lakewood, Littleton only allows medical marijuana dispensaries, but the residents have shown a stronger desire for recreational businesses: In November 2012, 51 percent of Littleton voters approved Amendment 64, the state ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana, while a recent poll by recreational pot proponents found that 69 percent of Littleton residents now support recreational marijuana sales. An initiative with more than the required 4,419 petition signatures was submitted to Littleton City Council in August and is expected to be included on the November election ballot.
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Although several towns within Adams County allow recreational marijuana sales and businesses, unincorporated Adams County does not. That started to change earlier this month, though, when Adams County Commissioners approved a new licensing lottery system for recreational marijuana stores and hospitality businesses. Several marijuana industry groups were pushing for more licenses — five hospitality licenses and one recreational sales permit were issued — and setting aside several licenses for social equity applicants, but they were ultimately unsuccessful in changing the commission's collective decision.
Voters in the City and County of Broomfield will decide whether to finally welcome the commercial marijuana industry after Broomfield City Council approved a proposed special sales tax on retail marijuana and moved that proposal to the November ballot. After more than a decade of banning marijuana dispensaries and commercial grows, the council will let a moratorium on the industry expire in February. But in order for such businesses to legally operate, they need to be taxed and licensed at the local level — and under the Colorado Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the new tax must first be approved by Broomfield voters. In November 2012, over 53 percent of Broomfield residents voted in favor of Amendment 64.
A southern Colorado border town of just over 8,000 people, Trinidad is home to 25 dispensaries and sees plenty of consumers coming north from New Mexico and nearby Texas. But while the town is a shopper's mecca, most of Trinidad's cannabis-buying visitors don't have anywhere to smoke it, since social use is still banned at local businesses. Trinidad City Council is now considering marijuana hospitality licenses for dispensaries, hotels and other establishments, however, and could have an early vote on a social consumption ordinance during the next council meeting today, August 24.
The Dillon Town Council has been considering allowing marijuana consumption lounges since January, and seemed in favor of the idea as of July, when several councilmembers and Mayor Carolyn Skowyra supported pot hospitality — though they did receive some opposition from at least two councilmembers over stoned-driving concerns.