Steamboat Springs to decide on marijuana rules

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— The city of Steamboat Springs is beginning to craft its rules that will regulate the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Last week, Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Jerry Stabile and city attorney Dan Foote met with the owners of the three medical marijuana dispensaries in preparation for an October deadline.

“We just want to have a good working relationship with them,” Stabile said Thursday.

With the passage of Amendment 64, Colorado lawmakers had until July to come up with the state’s regulations. With a first draft of the rules in place, local governments now have until October to adopt their own rules. That is when the state will start accepting applications for licenses from current dispensary owners. Recreational marijuana dispensaries should begin opening in Colorado and Steamboat Springs by January.

Some communities in Colorado already have chosen not to allow recreational marijuana businesses, at least for now.

In Steamboat, it is clear that elected officials support allowing recreational marijuana businesses. Amendment 64 was passed with the approval of 69 percent of Steamboat voters.

At Tuesday’s Steamboat Springs City Council meeting, council members will be given information to come up with rules to regulate the recreational marijuana industry locally. Among the things that need to be decided are where the businesses can be located and how they are allowed to advertise.

The state’s rules address licensing procedures at the state level and details about security procedures that must be in place. The 64 pages of rules also state that marijuana has to be sold in childproof packaging. The state also has determined that existing medical marijuana dispensaries will have the first opportunity to sell the drug for recreational use.

“They are the only people that can apply for licenses until July 2014,” Stabile said.

Even with that provision in place, Stabile anticipated there will be people at the meeting Tuesday who want to open a marijuana business in January. Stabile said that next year the city likely will revisit how many recreational marijuana businesses can operate in Steamboat.

Among the local rules, Stabile said the police department is recommending that marijuana clubs or bars not be allowed. Amendment 64 states marijuana can not be consumed in public, but some have argued that private bars and clubs should be allowed. Marijuana clubs and bars currently are not allowed in Steamboat.

Signage at the businesses and advertising are two areas local officials will have some control over. Stabile said they would recommend that signage could not include images of marijuana or even the use of the word marijuana. A gentleman’s agreement essentially has been in place when it comes to advertising related to medical marijuana. That agreement likely would be formalized and would limit the size of advertisements.

Where the businesses can be located is another issue that needs to be addressed. The city’s zoning ordinance does not allow medical marijuana facilities to operate within 500 feet of a school, but it does not prohibit them from operating near a park. That became an issue when the D&C LLC dispensary wanted to move into a building across from Little Toots Park in Steamboat.

Collecting taxes beyond normal sales tax is another issue the city could discuss. Stabile said he thinks the police department would be able to regulate the industry with its already available resources. That is not the case in Denver.

The Denver Post reported that the city thinks it will need to spend $9.4 million for 26 police officers, regulation, enforcement and health and education programs. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has recommended a 5 percent tax during the first year. Denver voters would have to approve the tax, which would be in addition to the taxes that all Colorado residents will vote on in November. A 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent statewide sales tax are being proposed.

Steamboat is not the only community in Northwest Colorado that will be weeding through its own rules governing recreational marijuana sales. On Tuesday, the Craig City Council said that it did not support allowing recreational marijuana businesses in the interim.

In Routt County, Oak Creek Mayor Nikki Knoebel said Thursday that the town board would discuss the new rules at its July 25 meeting.

“We’re not rushing into anything,” Knoebel said. “We want to make sure we do it the right way.”

Hayden Mayor Jim Haskins said town council members have not talked about whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if we waited to see what Steamboat and Craig do and model something after them,” Haskins said.

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

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