Steamboat Springs City Council to consider temporary ban on pot clubs

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— Private marijuana clubs would be temporarily prohibited from opening in Steamboat Springs under an emergency moratorium to be presented to the City Council on Tuesday.

The emergency ordinance is in response to what Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae describes as a gray area in the language of Amendment 64, which was approved by Colorado voters in November and allows for the legal consumption of marijuana by adults 21 and older. The amendment also allows adults to grow as many as six plants and purchase cannabis at retail stores once the state has established a regulatory framework for such businesses.

But until those regulations are decided, some entrepreneurs in Colorado think Amendment 64 allows them to open private clubs where patrons can legally consume marijuana in the company of others.

The legality of a marijuana club was first tested Dec. 31. For $29.99, people could become a Club 64 member and consume pot with others at a Denver location. The Denver Post reported a club also opened in the small southern Colorado town of Del Norte before being quickly shuttered.

According to the Aspen Daily News, Aspen officials have received several inquiries about opening pot clubs there.

Kevin Fisher, owner of Rocky Mountain Remedies medical marijuana dispensary in Steamboat, said there were rumors in the local marijuana community that someone wanted to open a club in Steamboat.

To prevent such a club from opening, the Craig City Council recently passed an emergency ordinance prohibiting them.

"It all stems from the private marijuana clubs popping up around the state," Rae said about Steamboat's proposed ordinance.

According to a city staff report in the City Council's agenda packet, private pot clubs create a gray area in that despite the provisions of Amendment 64, the state and the city of Steamboat have laws on the books that prohibit smoking in certain areas, including businesses. The emergency moratorium would be in effect for 90 days, but city staff indicated that it would have a more permanent ordinance to propose to council before the expiration of the temporary ban.

Fisher said he is not currently opposed to the emergency ordinance because he thinks the opening of private marijuana clubs could prompt federal officials to intervene.

"I'd hate to poke the tiger," Fisher said.

Rae said that at the end of March, the city will start the process of developing its own ordinance that would regulate marijuana businesses, including private clubs. The city has until Oct. 1 to put its local controls in place.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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