GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Glenwood Springs will take the non-emergency route in putting a temporary halt to any applications for recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
The City Council voted 6-1 at its regular Thursday meeting to place a moratorium on considering applications for recreational marijuana establishments, as allowed under Amendment 64, until the city can decide how to proceed in regulating such businesses.
The moratorium is to remain in effect until Oct. 1, but could be lifted sooner or extended, depending on how long it takes the city to establish rules and regulations for the new industry.
The effect is essentially the same, minus the immediacy of an emergency ordinance.
The only difference is a 10-day notification period once council considers the ordinance on second reading at its March 7 meeting. Under an emergency action, that 10-day period is waived.
"I see this more as a public information moratorium, to announce to citizens that the city will wait until the state goes through its process before we start processing applications," City Attorney Jan Shute advised the council.
Voter passage of Amendment 64 last November calls for the state of Colorado to establish a system of regulating and taxing marijuana sales similar to alcohol, either through retail stores or the equivalent of bars and clubs for marijuana.
Amendment 64 also permits persons age 21 and over to possess up to 1 ounce and to grow limited amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
A state task force is currently working to come up with those rules, which are to be in place by July 1. The state expects to begin accepting applications by Oct. 1.
Local municipalities and counties may prohibit marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions, according to the new law's provisions. Or, they can permit them and write their own local regulations.
"We could opt out, but that could also open it up to legal challenges," Mayor Matt Steckler said.
"As a community, we do need to get out in front of this," Steckler said, noting that at least one marijuana club has already opened in Denver in advance of any formal regulations.
"We do need to keep things from getting ahead of where we are as a community," he said.
Councilman Dave Sturges supported a more urgent action through an emergency ordinance, and voted against going the traditional route.
"From a legal standpoint, some people do prefer to start asking the question by filing an application," Sturges said. "I believe we have a need for this [moratorium] as soon as possible."
The council's discussion also led to the usual philosophical arguments around the legalization of marijuana, and the potential that it could end up in the hands of minors.
"It is another way for younger people to be engaged in an activity that's not good for their health," he said.
Councilman Ted Edmonds said he believes regulating the recreational use of marijuana will be more effective in keeping the drug out of the hands of minors, than under the existing medical marijuana laws.
"The impacts we're seeing on young people now relates more to medical marijuana," Edmonds said.