Steamboat City Council approves November ballot question on marijuana
June 7, 2011
Shall the city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, ban the cultivation, manufacture and sale of medical marijuana, including the operations of medical marijuana centers, optional premises cultivation operations, and the manufacture of medical marijuana-infused products, unless such person does so as a patient or primary caregiver as authorized by Art. XVIII, Sec. 14 of the Colorado Constitution and pursuant to regulations enacted by the city; further authorizing the city to codify this ban in the municipal code.
Yes or No.
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs voters will decide in November whether to allow medical marijuana businesses to continue to operate in the city. Now they have a question to consider.
The City Council, by a 6-0 vote, approved a ballot question Tuesday night that, if approved by voters, would ban the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, grow operations and infused product makers in Steamboat. It wouldn't prohibit the cultivation and use of medical marijuana by patients and caregivers in compliance with Amendment 20.
The ballot question was one of two issues City Council members considered relating to the future of medical marijuana businesses in Steamboat during a meeting at Centennial Hall that remained tame. Unlike the May 17 meeting, when the City Council unanimously supported putting a question on the ballot after defeating a motion to ban medical marijuana, few supporters and opponents were in attendance.
City Council members dismissed, by a 5-1 vote, two other possible ballot questions. One would have imposed an additional 5 percent sales tax on medical marijuana sales. The second would have imposed the tax and dedicated the revenue to youth education and programs to mitigate the impacts of medical marijuana in the community. They opted to review those issues if the ban fails.
And, by a 5-1 vote, the City Council delayed action to the June 21 meeting on the second reading of a revised ordinance to regulate Steamboat's medical marijuana businesses. City Council member Scott Myller opposed the motion. Council member Meg Bentley didn't attend the meeting.
Colorado voters approved the use of marijuana for certain medical conditions with a doctor's recommendation in 2000 by voting in favor of Amendment 20. It also was supported by a majority of Routt County voters.
Medical marijuana dispensaries have operated in Steamboat since 2009, when three opened late that year. The City Council approved an ordinance in January 2010 that defined rules for their operation in Steamboat.
There was some confusion about the revised medical marijuana ordinance council members were being asked to consider Tuesday.
City staff attorney Dan Foote said that since last fall he had been preparing a revised ordinance that put the city in compliance with Colorado House Bill 1284, legislation created to regulate the state's burgeoning medical marijuana industry. But Foote said he changed the ordinance after the idea to ban medical marijuana businesses came up April 5. At that meeting, Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Joel Rae and Dr. Brian Harrington, of Yampa Valley Medical Associates, voiced support for a ban.
Foote said the new ordinance would permit the three existing dispensaries to operate in compliance with Amendment 20 as well was zoning and land use regulations imposed by the city. He said it did not recognize the definitions of medical marijuana commercial operations created by House Bill 1284.
City Council members expressed concern that the new ordinance would make it difficult for the dispensaries to operate legally after July 1, the deadline imposed by House Bill 1284 for municipalities to act on medical marijuana.
"I guess my intent as we moved through this process of getting out and letting the voters decide was keeping the status quo until the November election," City Council member Bart Kounovsky said.
City Attorney Tony Lettunich said if the City Council approve an ordinance allowing the commercial operations defined by House Bill 1284, it could place Steamboat in a difficult legal position if the voters approved a ban. Lettunich said he would try to craft an ordinance that allowed the existing dispensaries to operate while legally protecting Steamboat.
Also Tuesday, the City Council:
■ Approved $49,600 in additional funding for the Bike Town USA Initiative, including $19,600 to pay an executive director and to host another bike summit and $30,000 for marketing efforts. The funding will come from excess revenue collected to date. City Council opted to review a $103,000 request for road striping for bike lanes and increased signage for city streets.
■ Denied a request for supplemental funding for the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association's summer marketing plan.
— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com