Rifle voters get to weigh in on rec pot | PostIndependent.com

Rifle voters get to weigh in on rec pot

Alex Zorn

It’s been nearly four years since Colorado legalized marijuana, and while most Garfield County towns have approved recreational sales, Rifle has upheld its ban. In September’s municipal election, voters will be asked if they want to see that changed.

While it will serve only to provide additional data and information for City Council, this year’s ballot will include an advisory question for Rifle voters that asks: “As a non-binding question, should the city of Rifle allow for the five medical marijuana centers currently or in the future operating in the city to be licensed and regulated for the sale of retail and recreational marijuana and marijuana products: yes or no?”

Though Rifle City Council debated at length on whether to include the question on this year’s ballot at all at a meeting earlier in June, it ultimately decided that an advisory question was the best route.

“We’ve had workshops and public meetings, but I don’t think council feels that you have gotten the full story from your community, so this helps us get more data,” City Attorney Jim Neu told council during the first reading of the question.

While it is just an advisory question, meaning the voting results will be nonbinding and council can do what is wants with the information, Neu believes that the future council may have a difficult time beating back the industry if the vote is decisively in favor.

“Don’t ask the question if you’re not going to actually look at the results,” Councilwoman Barbara Clifton said during the first reading of the question. “That being said, this isn’t a guarantee that the next council will do whatever the vote is, particularly if the vote is extremely close.”

With four seats up on the Rifle City Council this election, including the mayor’s, the new council may be inclined to re-examine the city’s prohibition of recreational marijuana stores.

Rifle Chief of Police Tommy Klein, who joined the department in February after decades serving in North Carolina law enforcement, told council earlier in June that he would have to be neutral on the subject.

While he remains neutral, Klein said Friday that he did not believe lifting the ban would have much of an effect on Rifle officers because recreational marijuana is still legal to possess in Rifle, even if it is not sold.

If it were to allow recreational marijuana in town, which would not happen overnight even if the vote is decisive, Rifle would join neighboring towns Silt and Parachute in lifting bans on recreational following the legalization of marijuana in the state in 2014. Recreational marijuana is still banned in New Castle, according to New Castle Town Manager Tom Baker.

In 2016, legalized recreational and medical marijuana sales saw a 6.4 percent increase in Glenwood Springs. A total of $6.7 million in marijuana sales generated $248,084 in city sales taxes for the year, according to the year-end sales report.

Parachute legalized sales after its sales tax receipts took a huge hit in the latest natural gas downturn, prompting failed recall and repeal efforts. The move helped the town — nearly 30 percent of Parachute’s sales tax receipts in 2016 were from marijuana sales — $310,000 out of $1.05 million total.

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