City Council to take up medical marijuana’s future in town | SteamboatToday.com

City Council to take up medical marijuana’s future in town

City attorney has drafted potential ballot questions for November vote

Jack Weinstein

— The future of the medical marijuana industry in Steamboat Springs will be addressed by the Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night.

Council members will consider ballot questions that would allow city voters to decide in November whether medical marijuana businesses will be allowed to continue operating in Steamboat.

What the meeting won't include is a debate about the pros and cons of the treatment method, City Council President Cari Hermacinski said.

"I don't want to get into a wide-ranging discussion about whether medical marijuana is beneficial for health and what it means for the image of the community," she said. "We've had that wide-ranging discussion. Now it's a matter of whether we will put this language on the ballot or not."

On May 17, the City Council voted, 4-3, against a ban of medical marijuana businesses in Steamboat, but unanimously supported a ballot measure that would allow the public to decide.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich has been working to prepare drafts of ballot questions for council members to consider that would ask residents if they want to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, infused-product makers and grow operations, but not patients and primary caregivers, in compliance with Amendment 20.

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Lettunich also will present a ballot question that includes imposing an additional 5 percent sales tax on medical marijuana and paraphernalia sales. An alternative question would add the sales tax and devote the revenue to youth education and programs to mitigate the impacts of medical marijuana in the community.

Colorado voters approved the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions with a doctor's recommendation in 2000 by voting in favor of Amendment 20. It also was supported by a majority of Routt County voters.

Medical marijuana dispensaries have operated in Steamboat since 2009 when three opened late that year. The City Council approved an ordinance in January 2010, which defined rules for their operation in Steamboat.

The idea to ban medical marijuana businesses locally was raised by Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae and Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates. They expressed their support for a ban at the April 5 City Council meeting.

And last week, Steamboat residents Lisa Watts and Dr. Kelly Victory hosted the first meeting of a group to oppose medical marijuana businesses in Steamboat.

Kevin Fisher, co-owner of Steamboat dispensary Rocky Mountain Remedies, reiterated last week that he would wait until after Tuesday's meeting to organize his group in support of local medical marijuana businesses. But Fisher said he would attend the meeting to express his displeasure with the City Council's decision to approve putting a question on the ballot.

"I think the City Council is terribly remiss to put this on the ballot themselves," he said. "We have other mechanisms in this community to get a question on a ballot."

City Clerk Julie Franklin said the citizen referendum process requires signatures from 10 percent of eligible voters in the previous regular municipal election, which is 829.

Also Tuesday, the City Council will consider a second reading of a revision to the ordinance that permits the operation of three medical marijuana businesses in Steamboat.

City staff attorney Dan Foote said the ordinance council members will consider Tuesday has changed since he started working on it in October to bring the city in compliance with House Bill 1284. The legislation defined rules to regulate the state's medical marijuana industry, including dispensaries, infused-product manufacturers and grow operations.

"The original proposal would have changed our regulations to say these business are allowed to operate, subject to certain restrictions and the three-license limit," Foote said.

He said that since the possibility of a ban was raised, the language of the draft ordinance on the agenda Tuesday has been adjusted to resemble what

already exists. Foote said the new ordinance would permit the existing three dispensaries operations as defined by Amendment 20, but does not recognize the definitions of medical marijuana commercial operations created by House Bill 1284.

Even though there's a possibility residents will vote to ban medical marijuana businesses in November, Hermacinski said the council still needs to approve a second reading of the ordinance.

"We want to make sure we have appropriate language in place so we can show the state that we acted prior to July 1," she said about the deadline the state imposed for local governments to allow or ban medical marijuana businesses. "We want to make sure we have local control over medical marijuana dispensaries without being subject to state rules, wherever possible."

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

Proposed medical marijuana ballot questions

■ A. Shall the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, ban the cultivation, manufacture and sale of medical marijuana, including the operations of medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation operations, and the manufacture of medical marijuana-infused products, unless such person does so as a patient or primary caregiver as authorized by Art. XVIII, Sec. 14 of the Colorado Constitution and pursuant to regulations enacted by the city; further authorizing the city to codify this ban in the municipal code?

Yes or No.

■ B. Shall the city of Steamboat Springs’ taxes be increased by $ _ annually (first full fiscal year increase), and by whatever amounts are raised annually thereafter, through the adoption of an ordinance imposing a medical marijuana tax at the rate of 5.0% on the price paid or charged for medical marijuana and medical marijuana paraphernalia, all such taxes to be in addition to any sales tax then currently assessed by the city; and shall all revenues derived from such medical marijuana tax be collected and spent as a voter approved revenue change and an exception to the limits which would otherwise apply pursuant to Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law, and allowing such revenue to be expended as the city council shall determine?

Yes or No.

■ C. Shall the city of Steamboat Springs’ taxes be increased by $ _ annually (first full fiscal year increase), and by whatever amounts are raised annually thereafter, through the adoption of an ordinance imposing a medical marijuana tax at the rate of 5.0% on the price paid or charged for medical marijuana and medical marijuana paraphernalia, all such taxes to be in addition to any sales tax then currently assessed by the city; and shall all revenues derived from such medical marijuana tax be collected and spent as a voter approved revenue change and an exception to the limits which would otherwise apply pursuant to Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution or any other law, and dedicating the expenditure of all such sales tax to educating minors about the effects of marijuana and to mitigating the impacts of the sale of medical marijuana in the community?

Yes or No.

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