Our View: City Council's marijuana business moratorium unnecessary

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Editorial Board, August through January 2012

  • Scott Stanford, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Shannon Lukens, community representative
  • Scott Ford, community representative

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An overwhelming majority of Steamboat Springs residents sent a loud and clear message on Election Day: They support the legalization of marijuana for adults 21 and older.

The Steamboat Springs City Council ought to consider the will of the people — and the timeline prescribed in Amendment 64 — before it enacts a premature and unnecessary emergency moratorium Tuesday banning marijuana establishments within city limits.

It’s worth reminding the council and others that 69 percent of Steamboat Springs voters supported Amendment 64, demonstrating a broad base of support that crossed party and ideological lines. Tuesday’s vote was even more resounding than similar votes by Steamboat residents to reject a ban of medical marijuana dispensaries last year and to approve allowing medical marijuana in 2000.

Anticipating Amendment 64’s passage, police Chief Joel Rae was at the ready with an emergency moratorium to be placed on the council’s Tuesday meeting agenda. The moratorium specifically states that no marijuana businesses (excluding existing medical marijuana dispensaries) be allowed to operate within city limits. The moratorium is effective for 90 days.

But the language of Amendment 64 should dispel any sense of urgency to enact the moratorium. The constitutional amendment gives the state until July 1, 2013, to adopt regulations for the implementation of marijuana businesses. The Department of Revenue is to begin accepting and processing applications for marijuana businesses Oct. 1, 2013, the same date the amendment calls for local municipalities like Steamboat to have enacted an ordinance stipulating which city department would be in charge of processing marijuana business applications at the local level in the event the state hasn’t finalized its own procedures.

Because marijuana-related businesses like retail stores, grow facilities and product manufacturers cannot legally open under the terms of Amendment 64 until at least Oct. 1, 2013, it is unnecessary for Steamboat to adopt an emergency moratorium. Further, an emergency moratorium expires in 90 days, at which point city officials said they will be ready with a permanent ordinance regulating local pot shops.

The expiration of the 90-day moratorium will fall months in advance of the deadline for the state to enact its own regulations regarding the framework for marijuana businesses, raising questions of why the city thinks it necessary to have its own regulations in place far in advance of the state. Similarly, given the overwhelming support for Amendment 64, the city must engage its residents on any potential marijuana business restrictions before acting in a manner that could go against the resounding will of the voters.

To be clear, this editorial board advocated against Amendment 64 but not necessarily to the legalization of marijuana. Rather, our chief complaint was that a constitutional amendment wasn’t the best way to achieve legalization, particularly given the regulatory complexities and how difficult it is to change constitutional amendments as opposed to state statutes.

While there’s reason to think some of the provisions of Amendment 64 — namely the creation of marijuana businesses — will be the subject of a protracted legal battle with the federal government, there is nothing to indicate the city of Steamboat Springs needs to act in a hasty and unnecessary manner. The council should skip the moratorium and instead begin the process of community engagement regarding the quantity and potential location of marijuana businesses.

Comments

JJ Southard 1 year, 5 months ago

Like I said, 100% unnecessary moratorium. Waste of City Council's time.

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Dan Hill 1 year, 5 months ago

Next time City Police Chief is on the ballot I'm voting against Joel Rae.

What's that you say, he's not an elected official? Then why is he trying to drive the City's policy on this?

Part of the reason we've persisted with this futile war on drugs for fifty years with tragic consequences, is there are far too many people in the public sector with a vested interest in the money and power and bureaucratic empires built on stopping people from getting high. Meanwhile, the last time I looked real crimes like murder and rape and robbery have not been eliminated in this country. Let the police focus on that and leave the politics to the politicians.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Well, looks like City Council should also enact an emergency moratorium banning stores selling chemical weapons, stinger missiles and cruise missiles on Lincoln.

Of course, it is currently illegal, but that is apparently not enough for Chief Rae,

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rhys jones 1 year, 5 months ago

What we are witnessing are the last gasps of a dying generation and a dead ideology.

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Christopher Welch 1 year, 5 months ago

It was a long and expensive war and where did it get us? It's time to realize that in a democracy we have the right to change and the voters have exercised that right. Put on your big boy pants quit pouting, this is long over due and the people have spoken.

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rhys jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Please correct me if I'm wrong -- and we know it may take some time for municipalities to work out the particulars of retail sales -- but isn't simple possession legal RIGHT NOW, upon passage of the Amendment? Not that it makes a bit of difference in practice...

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John St Pierre 1 year, 5 months ago

Wonder if them old bible thumpers had this in mind........On the same day marijuana and gay marriage are legalized...
"Leviticus 20:13 .. A Man who lays with another man should be stoned"

LOL

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 5 months ago

A brief & interesting analysis: Legal Marijuana in Two States: What Happens Next? http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/11/10/legal-marijuana-in-two-states-what-happens-next.html

"The Colorado measure is much more radical than the Washington measure. Both intend to establish regulated markets on the alcohol model, something the federal government could probably shut down with relatively modest effort if it decided to. But Colorado also legalizes every resident to grow his or her own marijuana, and to give away as much as an ounce at a time to others. “Give away” is an interesting category; an informal market is likely to emerge, on a “Pay me $20 for this zip-lock baggie and I’ll give you the green stuff inside” basis.

While the feds could easily identify a limited number of state-licensed growers and retail outlets and shut them down with injunctions or with threats of arrest and property confiscation, identifying and cracking down on an unknown number of unlicensed home-growers would be next to impossible. So Colorado’s voters may well have let the genie out of the bottle in a way that no federal action can now reverse."

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Rhys, No, the governor has to certify the election results before Amendment 64 takes effect. Should take a few weeks.

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rhys jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Scott -- Thanks. John -- What a hoot!! Speaking for myself, I'm glad they're not part & parcel -- not that there's anything WRONG with that...

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

Sep, I found that a poorly researched article. Primarily because it completes ignores current Colorado law regarding dispensaries. The article is wrong to imply that the feds have been cracking down on Colorado dispensaries. The article is also wrong to suggest that legalizing personal use is legally a big change for Colorado. Colorado citizens already had the option to register as a mmj patient under generous provisions that just about anyone could qualify. A mmj patient was given the right to grow 6 plants and the right to claim that more than 6 was needed. Amendment 64 says people can grow 6, but only 3 can be mature plants.

Nor does the ability to legally own or "give" an ounce going to affect mj availability in other states. Dealers do not drive hundreds of miles for an ounce.

In terms of having an effect on the illegal drug trade, everything that could be possible under Amendment 64 is already possible via mmj dispensaries. Could a drug dealer have people make purchases on his behalf for him to resell in other state? Of course, though that would violate state law.

One thing that is probably correct is that the feds would be interested in shutting down the retail trade of mj. Thus, whether or not Amendment 64 has any real impact depends on how State of Colorado implements it. Colorado could write the rules so that it is trivial for the feds to shut down anyone reckless enough to open a mj shop. Or Colorado could write laws seeking to set new legal grounds on state's rights and the limits of interstate commerce. Laws such as can only be sold to Colorado residents with valid ID cards and resale is as illegal as reselling prescription drugs. That could be a dangerous court case for the feds since it could find agreement from conservative judges wanting to limit federal powers and liberal judges seeking to expand individual rights.

The more immediate short term impact will be in the publicity over quitting the war on mj. When the state does not collapse from all stoners all the time and instead quitting the war on mj has little impact since those wishing to use simply continue to use, but now without violating laws rarely enforced for personal use. The idea that there is some benefit to fighting this war on mj will be exposed as false.

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JJ Southard 1 year, 5 months ago

You should start getting a paycheck from The Pilot, Scott. Thanks for the article above! More thought out and researched than most articles I read in the news.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 5 months ago

JJ, The one mj business that I am surprised that hasn't happened is people setting up growing services. Seems to me that someone could grow other people's plants and that would require no license because they are providing a service.

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rhys jones 1 year, 5 months ago

Scott -- That's how the growers operate now, by gathering the "caregiver" rights from a number of "patients" thereby justifying their operations. Of course nobody can consume as much as they are authorized, so the excess goes to the dispensaries.

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