Steamboat Springs City Council weighs in on pot shop rules | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs City Council weighs in on pot shop rules

— The first recreational pot shops that open up here should not be allowed in the business districts downtown or at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, the Steamboat Springs City Council decided Tuesday night.

But council members did indicate they were comfortable through a conditional-use process letting them move into some other commercial spaces that are visible from U.S. Highway 40.

The decision came after two council members questioned why pot shops should not be accommodated in all of the zoning districts that currently host liquor stores.

Sonja Macys and Cari Hermacinski said the pot shops should have an opportunity to apply to move into any zone that a liquor store is allowed in through a conditional-use process.

However, a majority of the council sided with city staff's recommendation to keep them out of certain zones.

"I think caution might be a better step here," council member Walter Magill said. "I would like to see the zoning stay the same for the next few years and see how it plays out."

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Public Safety Director Joel Rae said the city's zoning recommendation aims to keep the marijuana messaging away from children and avoid a situation where a family going to a place like Fuzziwig's Candy Factory on Lincoln Avenue would be exposed to a retail marijuana store.

Council's decision on the zoning of future pot shops came as the body also made a number of other significant decisions on how the sale and use of recreational marijuana will be regulated here in the wake of Amendment 64.

And many of the votes from the council weren't unanimous.

Council voted, 4-3, to reject city staff's recommendation to place new advertising limitations on recreational pot that would bar marijuana shops from promoting their products on the radio, television and in newspaper/magazine ads bigger than a certain size.

The existing medical marijuana operators currently don't face advertising restrictions, but they do operate under a "gentleman's agreement" that has kept them from advertising on the radio or television.

The operators have indicated they don't plan to change their advertising practices when the pot shops open.

The council also voted, 6-1, to prohibit so-called "pot clubs."

After one of the more lively discussions of the evening, they also voted to allow shops to use the word "marijuana" and its synonyms in their business signs, but not depictions of the plant. But that rule could become moot by a state law that many expect will prohibit the word from signage anyway.

The city's proposed marijuana rules will come back for first reading Aug. 6 and are the result of weeks of research that culminated recently in a "marijuana summit" that was attended by law enforcement officials and the operators of Steamboat's three medical marijuana facilities.

The meeting was productive for both sides.

Rae said in an effort to grow their businesses, all three operators indicated they plan to apply for a retail permit while they maintain their medical marijuana licenses.

Under state rules, Rae said the existing dispensaries will be the only ones allowed to apply for the retail permits before July 2014.

While the council covered a wide range of marijuana regulations from signage to smoking in public, it was the zoning that drew the most attention from Rocky Mountain Remedies owner Kevin Fisher.

"That's the biggest issue for me," he said, adding that he plans to find a more centralized location to open his retail marijuana store.

He said he mostly was satisfied with Tuesday night's zoning decision because the council indicated it wants to allow the marijuana shops in areas that are zoned community commercial.

They would have to go through a public process to do so.

While Fisher said he agreed in principle that the shops should be allowed in all of the same zones as liquor stores, he said wasn't looking to move next to a store like Fuzziwig's on Lincoln Avenue.

"I don't want to create ill will," he said. "I live in this community, too."

Also on Tuesday night, Rae said the city has estimated it will cost Steamboat $9,165 annually to monitor each marijuana establishment.

It wants to recoup those costs, which stem from compliance checks to licensing paperwork, with an operating fee.

The city has until October to adopt its rules for recreational marijuana use.

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

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