Marijuana: Aurora places moratorium on pot businesses

Last night, the Aurora City Council gave an affirmative vote toward a moratorium on marijuana shops.

This does not come as much of a surprise, as Aurora has never allowed pot businesses within its borders. Still, one council member insists that the vote doesn't necessarily doom them forever.

"We aren't saying no to [marijuana businesses]" says the council's Debi Hunter Holen says. "We are saying we need more time to figure out how to handle it."

The moratorium ordinance states that Aurora's city manager must present the city council with guidelines regarding local licensing requirements for marijuana establishments by May 5, 2014. This gives the city seven months more than was originally prescribed by Amendment 64 to decide whether or not to allow pot businesses, and if so, how to do it.

The idea for a moratorium surfaced in early May along with some other alternatives, including letting the city grow and sell pot itself. But statewide legislation signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper last month shot down this last possibility.

"It's a brand new industry," points out city council member Sally Mounier says. "In Aurora ,we don't even have medical marijuana establishments. So we felt the responsible thing to do was to take our time and not rush into it."

In 2010, the city took similar action after medical marijuana legislation was passed. Aurora first put a moratorium on dispensaries and then placed a measure on the ballot in November, when voters approved a ban. This time, however, a public vote wasn't necessary, since the council already knows a majority of citizens favor recreational marijuana. Aurora voters supported Amendment 64 by a 56-44 percent margin.

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"There are some members of the council right now that would definitely say 'no,' there are some that would definitely say 'yes,' and there are some that are still not sure," Hunter Holen says. "But we are still looking at the bill to see what we can do."

During the coming months, city officials plan to study questions such as the best places to locate shops, as well as looking at how other cities in the state are managing the industry.

"Our voters made it very clear that this is something they wanted," Hunter Holen says. "So we are postponing things until we can get it worked out."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Governor John Hickenlooper signs six pot bills that are 'charting new territory.'"

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