Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs community has some choices to make when it comes to marijuana, and local officials are encouraging residents to voice their opinions.
Amendment 64 and the legalization of marijuana was the focus of a two-hour discussion Wednesday morning during the monthly Coffee and a Newspaper community gathering at the Steamboat Today office building.
About 25 people attended the event. Invited guests included Steamboat Springs Police Department Chief Joel Rae, Rocky Mountain Remedies medical marijuana dispensary co-owner Kevin Fisher and City Council member Walter Magill. Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark also attended.
Growing as many as six plants and possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana will be legal for those 21 or older once Gov. John Hickenlooper signs off on the Nov. 6 statewide vote in favor of Amendment 64. Hickenlooper's verification is expected by early January.
Amendment 64 also outlines a process for the opening of recreational marijuana retail stores. Local municipalities will be able to decide if they want pot shops at all, and they also have the ability to decide how many shops can open, where they can be located and what type of signage and advertising they can use. Steamboat officials likely will begin hashing out those details next summer.
Several residents spoke passionately at Wednesday’s discussion about their concerns and how the city should progress — or not progress — with the implementation of Amendment 64.
“Let all the other communities in Colorado be our guinea pigs,” Steamboat resident Alan Frackowiak said.
Frackowiak said that in 2000, he voted for Amendment 20, which made marijuana legal for medicinal purposes. He said he hoped it would help those people who had a legitimate need.
“The way it turned out and the way I thought it would turn out was very different,” Frackowiak said.
With a 12-year-old son, Frackowiak said, he did not like how marijuana was being advertised, and he ultimately voted against Amendment 64. He said he is concerned that recreational marijuana use will depreciate Steamboat’s value as a family-friendly vacation destination.
Frackowiak suggested not allowing pot shops in Steamboat until the effects are known in other areas of Colorado.
Others at the open community discussion wondered about how the new constitutional amendment would affect employers and what steps could or should be taken to ramp up drug prevention education for children.
One resident spoke about his experience with glaucoma and how marijuana has helped him. He expressed his belief that the legalization of marijuana is the right path for Steamboat and all of Colorado.
“People need to speak up,” said Rae, whose police department would be tasked with making sure pot shops are in compliance with local laws. “They need to talk to their council members because they are going to be the decision makers and the policy makers.”
Hinsvark agreed, saying that city officials will be relying heavily on community feedback to help guide local policy decisions.
In Routt County, 63 percent of voters were supportive of Amendment 64. Within Steamboat city limits, 69 percent of voters were supportive. With such a majority in favor of legalization, Magill said it would be difficult for the City Council to ignore the will of the voters when it comes time to consider marijuana retail shops opening in the city.
“You can’t turn around and have a 4-3 vote against these things,” Magill said. “You could, but that’s how you have a new council.”
Fisher encouraged the community discussion about pot shops.
“Where do you want us?” he asked. “How do you want us?”
Fisher also detailed the process and timeline by which state lawmakers are likely to enact the regulatory framework for marijuana retail establishments. And while he said the federal government could not overturn Amendment 64's passage and the right of adults 21 and older to possess and use marijuana, he said he wouldn't be surprised if the issue of retail establishments makes its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com