Council reverses stance on pot moratorium
August 21, 2013
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The city of Glenwood Springs will extend its moratorium on accepting applications for retail marijuana businesses through the end of the year, after City Council revisited the question and determined that it will not be able to meet an Oct. 1 deadline to put local regulations in place.
Council voted 4-1 at a special meeting Tuesday evening to continue the moratorium until Dec. 31, reversing an earlier decision to let the current moratorium expire on Oct. 1.
That's when existing medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to apply with the state of Colorado to expand into the retail marijuana market, starting in January of 2014.
"My fundamental position has not changed, which is that I'm not willing to override the desires or the willingness of city residents to allow retail marijuana," City Councilman Ted Edmonds said of the near 60 percent support among city voters for Amendment 64 last fall.
But Edmonds did reverse his position on the moratorium, because he said there are still too many unanswered questions and too little time to properly consider what types of local controls to put on the new industry before formally considering new business applications.
"It's everything from hours of operation, to inspections, to zoning, to fees," Edmonds said. "All of a sudden it became apparent that we had not really thought about all of those issues, and we needed a little more time to figure out how we're going to try to regulate this."
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Council spent several hours in an afternoon work session Aug. 15 going through those issues, but ultimately decided a moratorium extension may be needed to get through it all.
"Personally, I would prefer that [the moratorium] not go all the way to Dec. 31," Edmonds said, adding that it could be lifted whenever council feels comfortable with its progress on the regulations.
Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney, along with three other council members, was absent during last week's work session discussions. He said he was caught off guard by the decision to revisit the moratorium questions, and decided to vote against extending it.
"Part of the reason I voted against it is because there was nobody there to speak about it," McKinney said of the special Tuesday meeting, which was legally noticed but was not largely publicized.
"I understand the concerns and why council voted the way it did," McKinney said. "My hope is that we can expedite this and have the necessary regulations in place by November, or as soon as possible."
Because any zoning ordinances would have to go through the city planning and zoning commission, and be subject to two readings before City Council, McKinney said it probably was too much to ask that the city meet the Oct. 1 deadline.
Council members Matt Steckler, Mike Gamba and Todd Leahy joined Edmonds in voting in favor of the extension, while McKinney cast the lone dissenting vote. Councilors Stephen Bershenyi and Dave Sturges were not able to attend the meeting.
McKinney and Edmonds both agreed that one concern in allowing existing medical marijuana dispensaries in the city to expand into retail sales for recreational purposes, is that some of them are not in compliance with the city's two-year-old zoning regulations governing medical marijuana operations.
That's because most of them were in existence before those rules were put in place, and are considered to be "grandfathered" in.
Technically, any change in business operations, such as expanding into the retail trade, could trigger a land-use review that could put their licensing to dispense medical marijuana in jeopardy.
"Our zoning regulations say that medical marijuana dispensaries are required to be 500 feet away from schools and 500 feet away from each other," Edmonds pointed out. "If you draw the lines on the maps, four of the five dispensaries are non-conforming."
City Council will continue its discussion of marijuana business regulations in September.