Colorado towns and counties mulling recreational pot rules

According to Amendment 64, local municipalities that allow recreational cannabis businesses will need to have their rules and licensing processes in line by October 1 -- which is less than three months away. That means towns and counties across the state that haven't already banned recreational marijuana are starting to debate just how they should go about instituting the newly-formed industry.

Denver City Council is beginning to get serious about discussing regulations and how to tax an industry that doesn't yet exist.

According to the city's financial department, an extra 5 percent Denver sales tax could mean as much as $9.2 million for the city to use for enforcement, drug counseling programs and paying as many as 26 special marijuana cops for enforcement. The current plan would allow the 5 percent tax to be increased to as much as 15 percent down the line; city council will vote on that proposal July 29. If it passes, it will then go on the ballot for Denver voters to consider in November.

The pace is no quicker elsewhere in the state. Pitkin County commissioners are still kicking around ideas on how they should regulate retail cannabis businesses -- if they allow them at all. At last week's commissioners' meeting, County Attorney John Ely -- who's cautioned against allowing medical marijuana businesses in the county in the past -- reminded the commissioners that they can regulate businesses more strictly than the state will.

"We really can do a great number of things to effect whatever it is the board wants to accomplish," Ely said, according to the Vail Daily. But for the most part, commissioners in Pitkin County seem open to recreational cannabis, even though several are wary of cultivation facilities (and their smells). They're more supportive of retail stores, which are likely to be located in and regulated by towns like Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt and Woody Creek.

In Colorado Springs, the debate is much more contentious; the Colorado Springs City Council is as divided as the city's residents over whether to allow retail stores at all. At a meeting Monday, councilmembers opposed to recreational marijuana sales used the usual public-safety and protect-the-children arguments, but several also mentioned the impact that allowing cannabis sales might have on military staffing around Colorado Springs.

According to the Pueblo Chieftain, Fort Carson is being considered for expansion by up to 3,000 troops, and brass at the base have already warned that Amendment 64 and allowing cannabis "goes against good order and discipline."

Others on the council argue that the city should respect the wishes of the majority of Colorado Springs voters, who approved Amendment 64 -- even if the margin was a slim ten votes. By the end of Monday's meeting, the council had agreed to draft two resolutions: one banning recreational cannabis sales altogether, and one that puts a moratorium on businesses until after the tax issues are settled in the November election.

The Colorado Springs City Council will decide which way to go at the July 23 meeting.

More from our marijuana news archive: "Solace Meds the first dispensary to reopen in Fort Collins"; "Denver's projected revenues from recreational pot won't cover expenditures"

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William Breathes
Contact: William Breathes

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