Seconding Reading of Ordinance Scheduled for June 4
MONTROSE – By a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Montrose City Council took a step toward becoming one of the first municipalities in Colorado to permanently prohibit retail marijuana sales within city limits.
Ordinance 2321 was passed on first reading and will be voted on again June 4 when the city council is scheduled to hear testimony from the public. The ordinance will take effect immediately making Montrose another municipality to issue moratoriums on the retail marijuana industry, but one of the first municipalities to make the ordinance permanent.
Montrose City Attorney Stephen Alcorn noted 55.3 percent of city voters and 56.7 percent of county voters cast ballots against Amendment 64 last fall which allows people 21 and older in Colorado to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, and grow up to six plants privately in their homes. Statewide, Amendment 64 passed with 55 percent of the vote.
The ordinance prohibits the local sale but not the use of marijuana set forth by the state amendment.
Days following Amendment 64's passage last November, the council approved a six-month temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana retail dispensaries stating the council wanted to "wait and see" how state lawmakers would explain the amendment’s language as it relates to law enforcement and public safety.
Councilor Bob Nicholson said on Tuesday the state has not yet figured out its laws pertaining to marijuana, calling state regulation "no man's land."
The state legislature closed the spring session earlier this month handing down the following provisions:
• Colorado residents only can buy up to one ounce of marijuana, while out-of-state residents can only purchase one quarter-ounce at a time, and must be packaged in child-resistant containers with proper labeling which specifies potency.
• Colorado residents only can own or invest in the marijuana stores, and only current medical-marijuana dispensary owners can apply to open recreational marijuana stores for the first nine months of 2014 when the first stores are scheduled to open around Jan. 1.
• Sales of Marijuana will be conducted in state-licensed stores only which can offer marijuana accessories including pipes.
• Heavy taxes on pot sales can be imposed by voter-approved measures. One such ballot measure is set for this coming November and will ask voters to approve an initial 10 percent sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on marijuana. The sales tax will pay for regulation of marijuana stores while excise tax funds will go to school construction.
• Cities cannot operate their own pot shops and incorporated marijuana collectives are also banned along with marijuana coffee shops or "smoking bars" and marijuana smoking in bars.
• The most controversial area of the new laws are the ones concerning driving while under the influence of marijuana. Colorado drivers for the first time will be subject to a stoned-driving limit. Juries will be allowed to presume that anyone testing above the limit was too high to drive. Statewide some groups have protested the driving limits and have threatened lawsuits.
For Councilor Thomas Smits, voters in Montrose was the deciding factor to vote for the ordinance.
"I wasn't too concerned what the state was doing as much as what a majority of the citizens voted in Montrose County,” Smits said. “The important thing was the state constitutional amendment allowed local municipalities to opt out, and I think that's what we’re doing. A majority of our voters voted against the state constitutional amendment and that is what we're prepared to move forward with.”
Alcorn said the ordinance also bans marijuana-related paraphernalia including any accessories which aids in the cultivation, manufacture and consumption of the drug.
Mayor Judy Ann Files and Councilor Kathy Ellis said as council members they have sworn an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and under federal law marijuana is still illegal.
"My biggest opposition is that it's still contradictory to federal law, so until the feds get it figured out, I don't think municipalities in Colorado can get it figured out," Smits said.
A deadline of Oct. 1 has been set for the state's Department of Revenue to begin issuing licenses. As written, those who violate the municipal code could face a $1,000 fine or up to one year in jail.
The June 4 council meeting will be held at the City Council Chambers located at 107 South Cascade Avenue in Montrose.