Marijuana: Council's Amendment 64 Committee faces tough questions, has few answers

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The first meeting of the Denver City Council's Amendment 64 Committee, held yesterday afternoon, concluded with few answers but a big pile of questions.

The most pressing of the latter might also be the most formidable: Can the committee accomplish its goals within a very tight timeline?

Councilman and committee chair Charlie Brown addressed the looming tasks at the beginning of the meeting, drawing on his experience as a member of the medical marijuana committee three years ago. "It was a lot of work and a lot of time and a lot of effort, but we did it," Brown said. "And now we have to do it again."

Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell subsequently laid out the committee's deadlines before thanking the committee members for their participation and noting, "We're mainly just going to put issues on the table today to start the ball rolling, to set the table, and then, in the next couple of months, we'll come back and start picking them off, one by one ..."

The main matters pertain to the unexplored recreational-marijuana territory include funding, social impact and rules and regulations for marijuana retail outlets.

Commercial shops present the committee with perhaps one of its toughest decisions: to allow, or not allow.

"Obviously, the biggest threshold question for Denver or any other municipality or county is to reach consensus on whether we're in or we're not, or something in between, as someone alluded to earlier," Broadwell said. "But Amendment 64, certainly, embedded within it, is the idea of local option."

Continue for more about the first meeting of the Denver City Council's Amendment 64 Committee. Brown acknowledged the complexity of the retail question, but he kept an eye on the deadlines, settling on a decision to vote during the committee's third meeting.

He also pointed out some of the funding complications that could come into play when developing Amendment 64. He noted, for example, that 46 percent of employees at the state's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division were laid off last spring due to a lack of funds. This gap between program funding and personnel is a problem the committee can ill-afford to ignore when it comes to A64.

"If we're going to do this as a state, we're being watched nationwide -- if not worldwide -- of how we do it," Brown said. "And if we're going to do it right, we have to support it with our dollars, and it has to be, in my judgment, consistent dollars, and we know that they are there."

Other committee members questioned whether the social impact of non-medical marijuana had been sufficiently examined -- specifically the potential impact on teens and the homeless population. Another member noted that one of the task forces designated by Governor John Hickenlooper is looking at the implications of recreational marijuana legality on children.

Right now, the committee's next meeting is tentatively scheduled for February 18, but that could change. The plan right now is for members to get together every third week, but each session is subject to change within a week of the date.

As the committee moves forward, members will have to find ways to deal with these issues even as a potentially multi-million-dollar unknown remains: Will the federal government allow all of Amendment 64 to be implemented.

Broadwell admitted he is just as curious as everyone else about when the Obama administration will make its intentions known.

"I check the web, like, six times a day because I want to be the first to know when that happens," Broadwell said. But thus far, he added, there's been no news -- "absolutely nothing."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Differences among members of council's recreational pot committee, chair says."

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