City of Steamboat Springs plans ahead for potential Amendment 64 passage | SteamboatToday.com

City of Steamboat Springs plans ahead for potential Amendment 64 passage

— If Amendment 64 passes Tuesday, Steamboat Springs officials want to make sure they have local rules in place to regulate the businesses that could sell marijuana for recreational use.

An emergency ordinance is on the Steamboat Springs City Council's Nov. 13 agenda that would enact a moratorium on facilities that could sell marijuana to any adult 21 and older.

"It's no more than a belt and suspenders," Steamboat Police Chief Joel Rae said.

He said the moratorium would allow the council and Steamboat residents to take time to consider what they want for their community should the amendment to the Colorado constitution pass.

"This is all a big if — if Amendment 64 passes," Rae said.

If approved, Amendment 64 would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and allow those 21 and older to possess as much as 1 ounce.

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According to a recent Denver Post poll, 50 percent of likely voters support Amendment 64, while 44 percent oppose it. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent and surveyed 695 likely voters from Oct. 28 to Wednesday on land lines and cellphones.

SurveyUSA conducted the poll and told the Post that Amendment 64’s "passage would be driven largely by the support of younger voters, who sometimes are less reliable, turnout-wise, than are older voters.”

Colorado's last statewide measure to legalize marijuana failed in 2006, with 59 percent of voters rejecting it.

If the amendment passes, recreational users would have to grow the marijuana themselves or buy it from a retail shop, which likely would not exist for at least a year. The state would have until Jan. 1, 2014, to start issuing licenses to businesses that want to sell marijuana for recreational use.

Even though it is not anticipated that retail shops would open for at least a year, Steamboat officials want to make sure none open up before then. Rae said the city learned its lesson with medicinal marijuana dispensaries that opened in Steamboat after applying only for a license from the state. They do not want to be surprised again, Rae said, and the moratorium would ensure retail shops do not open until the city has a chance to put a plan in place.

"It's not up for interpretation," said Rae, who along with other local law enforcement officials have come out against Amendment 64.

Rocky Mountain Remedies co-owner Kevin Fisher has said he is supportive of a moratorium on retail pot shops. He and other medicinal marijuana business owners are concerned that the opening of retail stores could invite a visit from federal authorities who might decide to shut down the medicinal dispensaries as well.

At the state level, if Amendment 64 passes, the state would regulate it similar to how alcohol is regulated. Marijuana sales could also be taxed by as much as 15 percent by the state. The first $40 million raised annually would go toward building schools, according to the language of Amendment 64.

Locally, Rae said the city would need to consider its own regulations on recreational pot shops, such as whether they can be located near preschools, daycare centers and parks.

"Do we want marijuana brownies being sold next to Fuzziwig's?" Rae asked. "We need to get all that stuff in place.”

Rae said the passage of Amendment 64 would present an "opportunity for a lot of young entrepreneurs who have dollar signs in their eyes." He said the city might need to address issues such as what kind of advertising the pot shops could do and what kind of signage the businesses could have.

"That's a big thing to me," Rae said. "Do we want restrictions, and can we do restrictions?"

The amendment stipulates that marijuana could not be consumed in public, but that still presents some unanswered questions that the city might need to answer.

"Is it public consumption if you have a private room in the back of your bar?" Rae asked.

Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger questioned whether the county would need to pass an ordinance because he thinks existing county ordinances would prevent a recreational pot shop from opening.

Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins said he wants to make sure measures are in place that would prevent recreational pot shops from opening in the county.

Key points from Amendment 64:

• Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal.

• People would need to be at least 21 years old to purchase or possess marijuana.

• People would be allowed to possess as much as 1 ounce of marijuana.

• Marijuana would be labeled and subject to additional regulations from the state to ensure that consumers are "informed and protected."

• Consumption of marijuana in public would not be allowed.

• People would be allowed to grow as many as six plants, three of which could be mature plants. but would not be allowed to sell marijuana without a license.

• People 21 or older would not be allowed help people younger than 21 get marijuana.

• The state would regulate, among other things, security at shops and labeling and could impose restrictions on advertising.

• Marijuana sales could be taxed by as much as 15 percent by the state. The first $40 million raised annually would go toward building schools.

• Local governments would be able to ban retail stores and limit the number of retail stores.

• Employers still would be able to enforce policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees.

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

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