Steamboat Springs City Council passes on emergency marijuana ordinance

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— The Steamboat Springs City Council will take some more time to watch how the state and federal governments respond to the passage of Amendment 64 before it starts to craft rules of its own to regulate recreational marijuana businesses here.

On Tuesday night, the council voted unanimously to table an emergency ordinance proposed by Public Safety Director Joel Rae that would have prohibited the establishment of recreational marijuana facilities over the next 90 days in the wake of the amendment's passage last week.

Council members, and Rae himself, decided the ordinance was unnecessary after it became clear that no recreational marijuana facility could legally open anywhere in Colorado before Oct. 1, 2013, the date by which the Department of Revenue is supposed to begin accepting and processing applications for marijuana businesses.

Rae said he proposed the ordinance in part to avoid a repeat of medical marijuana's introduction to Steamboat.

After the passage of Amendment 20, dispensaries were able to open in city limits after operators applied only for a license from the state and without the blessing of the City Council.

“Knowing the history of what we experienced with medical marijuana centers being opened here, it seemed pretty prudent a few weeks ago that this (ordinance) may be the best approach to bring to council,” Rae told council members.

However, he said as it became more clear Amendment 64's passage would not create a repeat of that situation, an emergency ordinance wasn't "100 percent necessary."

Council members said Tuesday night they felt comfortable waiting until early next year to start discussing what type of ordinance they would use to regulate any local recreational marijuana facilities.

They also talked with City Attorney Tony Lettunich, who said he would closely monitor the state and federal responses to the amendment's passage.

“It's on our radar now and it's not going to slip by us,” Council President Bart Kounovsky said.

Kounovsky praised Rae for proposing the ordinance, saying that although it wasn't needed, it started the dialogue on the city's response to Amendment 64.

The amendment legalizes marijuana use and possession for adults ages 21 and older and was supported by 69 percent of Steamboat voters.

The state has until July 1, 2013, to adopt regulations for the implementation of marijuana businesses.

Rae said he was anxious to hear how state lawmakers plan to regulate and license marijuana for recreational use.

“I expect we'll report back to council and start having discussions in the early spring about what types of ordinances and restrictions our community would like to see,” he said.

Rae said from zoning regulations to potential restrictions on advertising, the council will have much to discuss when it decides how to regulate any new marijuana businesses.

In other action:

The council voted 5-1 to approve the second and final reading of the city's 2013 budget. Council member Cari Hermacinski opposed the final budget. After Tuesday's meeting, she said she didn't agree with the council's decision to increase its sales tax revenue projections to cover more spending. The extra spending included $350,000 to restore the Yellow Line and avoid other cuts to the city's free bus service; $35,000 for a USA Pro Cycling Challenge host city sponsorship; and $13,000 to keep a downtown resource officer on police staff. Sonja Macys was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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