Recreational marijuana OK’d by Rifle City Council
After dozens of workshops and discussions on the issue that date back to early 2017, Rifle City Council in November moved to bring recreational marijuana to a limited number of stores in town.
The move lifts a city ban on legalized recreational marijuana that has been in place since state voters approved it in 2012. That law allowed local jurisdictions to decide whether they wanted to allow recreational sales, and to determine how to regulate the business.
According to the city ordinance, only three licensed stores will be permitted in Rifle and no store will be permitted to sell recreational marijuana in the downtown area.
City Attorney Jim Neu called it a nice compromise for council and added that council members stressed keeping the number of stores at three, and excluding the downtown area from recreational marijuana.
The ordinance amends the code to require all licensed recreational marijuana retail shops be south of Interstate 70. The two existing medical marijuana stores currently located north of I-70 are grandfathered in and are permitted to sell medical. But, if they want to apply for a retail marijuana license, they would need to relocate south of I-70, according to the ordinance.
The Green Joint is currently the only Rifle marijuana shop that would be allowed to sell recreational in its current Airport Road location, with the recreational ban now lifted.
Green Joint Owner Dan Sullivan said he anticipates his Rifle location will be selling recreational marijuana by the end of February.
“Obviously, there is a demand and desire in the community for it,” he added.
The city also increased the number of cultivation licenses from four to seven.
The retail marijuana stores will be faced with an additional sales taxes of 15 percent, up from 5 percent, according to the ordinance .
Mayor Barbara Clifton said she couldn’t speak for every council member, but she felt the city was feeling some of the negative effects of recreational marijuana without benefiting from any of the taxes it could bring in.
“I think we felt we wanted to be a little bit more on the proactive end and get it regulated to the point we were comfortable,” Clifton added.
She referenced the advisory question the city posed in the 2017 election asking whether the city should allow the five medical marijuana centers currently in operation to sell recreational marijuana.
The results came back with 552 voters in favor with 511 against.
“[This is a] compromise that we felt allows recreational, but still represents Rifle’s conservative views,” she added.
Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein, who has been involved in the marijuana conversations dating back to before the advisory question was posed, said marijuana regulation has been one of the biggest differences between his years of law enforcement, first in North Carolina and now here in Colorado. And, while he’s personally not a supporter of the state’s law, he thinks council gave careful consideration on a very divisive topic.
“I think this is a really good start,” said council member Joe Elliot, before the ordinance was passed. “We are going to talk about this again and again. We are always going to have to tweak and work with this but I think this is strong.”
Council lifted Rifle’s ban on recreation marijuana in a 5-2 vote at its Nov. 19 meeting, with council members Sean Strode and Ed Green voting against.
“I will never vote for the proliferation of a schedule 1 drug in my community,” Green declared.
With a lengthy application process, it would be early 2019 before the product is sold in Rifle.