Grand Junction City Council seeks commercial pot sales ban | PostIndependent.com

Grand Junction City Council seeks commercial pot sales ban

Caitlin Row
crow@gjfreepress.com

MORE INFO ON BANNING COMMERCIAL POT in GJ

An ordinance may not prohibit the following:

1) Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana;

2) Private cultivation in an enclosed space (individuals may grow up to six plants, although only three of them can be flowering, or ready for harvest, at any given time).

3) An adult giving or “gifting” marijuana to another adult (as long as they are both over the age of 21)

4) Government-run retail marijuana stores are not allowed.

An ordinance may:

1) Ban marijuana stores, marijuana-products businesses and commercial cultivation

facilities, either through an ordinance or through a vote of the residents.

2) Create rules for marijuana stores and require licenses. Marijuana business licensing may occur as early as Oct. 1, 2013.

3) Place additional taxes (if voter approved) and fees on the sale of retail marijuana.

SOURCE: City of GJ

In light of Mesa County voters’ lack of support for Amendment 64 last November, Grand Junction will likely ban commercial sales of marijuana within city limits. The state regulation allowing marijuana to be sold and taxed for recreational use to those 21 years of age and older is being adopted across the state, but not by all governing entities.

A first reading of an ordinance prohibiting pot retail shops, commercial cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and related land uses was passed at the Wednesday, Aug. 7, city council meeting. The ordinance will not ban personal (small-scale) or medical-marijuana usage — just associated commercial business.

A second reading of the ordinance, along with a public hearing, is tentatively scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 4. The ordinance is not made official until a second approval by council.

“I don’t think it’s a good precedent to set in our community,” GJ Councilor Jim Doody said at a Monday, Aug. 5, work session regarding whether to allow pot shops.

Councilor Phyllis Norris agreed, saying, “I think the voters made it clear they didn’t want marijuana sales” in Grand Junction.

That’s because Amendment 64 didn’t pass within Mesa County, though it was widely supported in other locales throughout the state.

At the same work session, Councilor Bennett Boeschenstein noted a desire for more research before he takes a stance on the topic.

By not allowing pot shops in Grand Junction, the city will also miss out on a boost in sales tax numbers expected across the state.

“The state has estimated gross retail sales to be $271 billion in 2014-2015 (the first full year of implementation of the above rates),” a City of GJ memorandum said. “Using either population or retail sales activity, city staff estimates (if a prohibition ordinance is not adopted) $86,160-$141,777 annual sales tax revenue. Net of uncollectible accounts and vendors fees the estimates are reduced to $82,000-$135,000.”

Currently, “House Bill 1318 established excise and sales tax rates for retail marijuana that must be approved or rejected by voters in November 2013,” the memorandum continued. “If the City Council adopts an ordinance prohibiting retail marijuana in Grand Junction, then the city will not be receiving tax revenue if the ballot question passes.”

According to information provided in the city document, that sales tax rate will be placed at 10 percent, on top of 2.9 percent state sales tax along with other possible taxes and/or fees. Then, an excise tax will likely be set at 15 percent.

Some funds collected through taxation would go toward state regulatory enforcement, with $40 million (from across the state) going annually to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund.

At the Aug. 5 work session, Mayor Sam Susuras, however, said he didn’t believe a sales tax boom would offset the negatives of having commercial pot sales in Grand Junction.

“The city and council voted no on medical marijuana facilities,” he added.

Grand Junction, along will all other governmental entities statewide, must implement bans on the blooming commercial trade by Oct. 1.

“Oct. 1 is the date at which retail operations can begin applying for licenses to go into business,” City of GJ Spokeswoman Sam Rainguet said. “If there is a ban at that time, there can be no licenses.”

WHAT OTHER ENTITIES ARE DOING

Palisade Town Manager Rich Sales said his council will discuss extending its moratorium on whether to allow recreational pot shops at a Tuesday, Aug. 10, meeting. Currently, Palisade is the only area in Mesa County with a medical marijuana dispensary and they’ve taken a wait-and-see stance on commercial marijuana businesses while state regulations shake out.

Mesa County Commissioners will host a second reading of their proposed ordinance to ban pot shops and related businesses in unincorporated Mesa County on Monday, Aug. 12, at 9:05 a.m. If commissioners approve the ordinance, they will be the first in the county to implement an official ban.

“They will be taking public comment on the issue at this meeting,” Mesa County spokesman Ryan Cook said.

The City of Fruita is also drafting an ordinance, though it’s not yet been reviewed by city councilors.

“The draft ordinance will be to ban commercial sales,” Fruita City Manager Clint Kinney, though a timeline has not yet been set for readings.

And according to the Post Independent, Glenwood Springs recently voted to end its moratorium on pot shops starting Oct. 1.

“At that time, existing medical marijuana providers throughout Colorado can begin applying with the state and local jurisdictions to become the first to offer retail marijuana sales for recreational purposes starting on Jan. 1, 2014,” writer John Stroud stated in an Aug. 2 article.

“Amendment 64 specifically allows existing medical marijuana outlets to be the first out of the gate as providers of recreational sales,” Stroud’s article continued. “Prospective new businesses have to wait an additional nine months, until October 2014, before they can seek licensing through the state and local jurisdictions.”


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