Rifle City Council candidates explain their stances on marijuana stores in Rifle | PostIndependent.com

Rifle City Council candidates explain their stances on marijuana stores in Rifle

Mike McKibbin
Citizen Telegram Editor
Sarah Brainard
Staff Photo |

Shortly after the Sept. 10 municipal election, the newly constituted Rifle City Council will face an important and potentially controversial decision regarding the sale of marijuana to adults in the city.

Under Amendment 64, approved by Colorado voters last year, each municipal and county governing body has the option to either ban such stores or put the issue to their voters. Otherwise, sales by licensed, approved businesses can begin Jan. 1, 2014.

At the Aug. 21 City Council meeting, an ordinance was approved that extends a temporary ban on such businesses from Oct. 1 to Nov. 6.

The current council had said the new council should decide how to regulate marijuana establishments, or to prohibit them altogether, rather than the outgoing council. To give staff time and the new council the opportunity to get familiar with the issues, the temporary ban was extended until Jan. 1.

Under Amendment 64 and rules adopted by the State of Colorado, applications for recreational marijuana establishments can be submitted by existing medical marijuana facilities on Oct. 1. The ordinance urges the new council to make a determination by its Nov. 6 meeting.

The Citizen Telegram emailed each candidate three questions about the issue.

Incumbent Randy Winkler responded with a brief statement.

“As you are aware, there is a workshop scheduled for Sept. 18 (with the new council) to discuss this topic. At that workshop, our attorney will give us the latest state rules and regulations along with our police chief’s comments. I have no comment on this until after this workshop,” Winkler wrote.

Sarah Brainard

1) Should the city allow recreational marijuana shops to operate? Why or why not?

I think the new council will have to learn more about this topic before making a decision. We will need to review the state regulations, evaluate the implications involved with allowing recreational marijuana shops to operate in Rifle and discuss the direction the current council is headed. With that said, I think it could be beneficial to allow recreational marijuana shops to operate because it would expand business for current medicinal dispensaries that are located in Rifle.

2) Do you think these stores can help increase the city’s sales tax picture to any great degree? Why or why not?

I think there is a potential for these stores to help generate more business in Rifle. The city has the option to look at creating its own regulations and taxes on the sales of recreational marijuana and the new council will need to learn more about these options.

3) How much weight do you give to the fact Rifle voters narrowly (by nine votes) opposed Amendment 64 in deciding whether or not to allow the businesses to operate?

I think a nearly 50/50 vote on the issue means that we need to do a very thorough job of evaluating both sides of this issue, evaluating the pros and cons carefully. I do not think this is an issue that can be taken lightly.

Dirk Myers answered the questions in a phone interview on Monday, Aug. 26.

1) Should the city allow recreational marijuana shops to operate? Why or why not?

Myers said he is leaning toward banning such shops in Rifle, pointing to the lack of direction from the federal government on how they will treat the sales of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state. He also cited United Nations pressure on the U.S. to follow an international drug treaty and reports that Mexico wants the federal government to side against the move to legalize marijuana in the two states.

“We already know the medical marijuana businesses can’t deposit their sales proceeds in banks, so it becomes a cash-only business,” Myers said. “If the city approves them and starts collecting a sales tax, what happens if the feds come in and want the money? What does that do to Rifle’s revenues?”

2) Do you think these stores can help increase the city’s sales tax picture to any great degree? Why or why not?

Myers said the new council needs to learn the approximate revenue the medical marijuana shops have generated, how much law enforcement costs will go up with additional patrols, increased robberies and the like, and look at what other communities charge in terms of excise taxes or even flat fees per license.

“It may be more feasible to do that in Rifle because of our size,” Myers said. “We’re not downtown Denver, so maybe something like a liquor license fee.”

3) How much weight do you give to the fact Rifle voters narrowly (by nine votes) opposed Amendment 64 in deciding whether or not to allow the businesses to operate?

Myers said in his talks with citizens, he had not heard one person say they had voted in favor of the amendment.

“They were concerned with their kids and how to keep it away from people under 21,” Myers added. “No one said they were against medical marijuana in the city, either, just the recreational marijuana.”

Wilma Paddock

1) Should the city allow recreational marijuana shops to operate? Why or why not?

The voters spoke and approved the amendment, so I do think Rifle should allow recreational marijuana to operate. I know that the decision was mostly split for Rifle, but I do think there is a lot of support and it would benefit the city to have the tax revenue.

2) Do you think these stores can help increase the city’s sales tax picture to any great degree? Why or why not?

I do think it will benefit our sales tax to a small degree. If towns and cities around us choose not to have the sale of recreational marijuana, it will benefit us even more. I know it is a very controversial issue and there needs to be regulations and careful considerations on the approval process.

3) How much weight do you give to the fact Rifle voters narrowly (by nine votes) opposed Amendment 64 in deciding whether or not to allow the businesses to operate?

I think as a representative of the people, it is my position to support the decisions of the citizens. We, as American citizens, have agreed to follow the laws even if we did not vote for them. That is what makes America so great! You can have a lot of discussion on both sides of the issue, but in the end, the voters speak and everyone follows whatever is decided.

Barbara Clifton

1) Should the city allow recreational marijuana shops to operate? Why or why not?

If I am elected to City Council, I would need to have further input from Rifle citizens, to see the final regulations adopted by the State of Colorado, and to hear from the city’s legal counsel as to the level of regulations that could legally be created. Realistically, however, medical marijuana shops and recreational marijuana use (through Amendment 64) are going to be present even if the city enacts a ban on retail sales. Given that presence, my initial thought is that the City Council needs to take the power given to it by Amendment 64 and regulate recreational use and retail marijuana sales. Although the state is in the process of enacting numerous regulations as to the use and sale of recreational marijuana, I think that local control is absolutely necessary.

2) Do you think these stores can help increase the city’s sales tax picture to any great degree? Why or why not?

The amount of sales tax revenue that might be generated by recreational marijuana sales is uncertain. There is no comparable data to use as an estimate. However, Rifle did receive about $50,000 in sales tax revenue from medical marijuana sales in 2012. The city’s sales tax revenue would also be affected if the 10 percent sales tax measure passes in the November general election. Under that measure, Colorado would impose an excise tax of 15 percent on the sale of recreational marijuana at the wholesale level and a sales tax of 10 percent on the sale of recreational marijuana at the retail level. The taxes are in addition to any state or local sales tax. The tax monies are to be used to fund public school capital construction and for marijuana enforcement, with a portion returning to the jurisdictions that have retail marijuana stores within their boundaries. Regardless of the potential dollar amount of the revenue, however, I do not believe that sales tax revenue should be a determining factor in the decision of whether to allow retail marijuana sales.

3) How much weight do you give to the fact Rifle voters narrowly (by nine votes) opposed Amendment 64 in deciding whether or not to allow the businesses to operate?

Amendment 64 gives each local jurisdiction the right to regulate, tax, delay and/or opt out of retail marijuana shops. The voice of the Rifle voters is critical in making this decision. However, nine votes either way is not a sufficient margin to be a mandate for or against retail recreational marijuana shops. I encourage everyone with a position on this issue to attend the Sept. 18 City Council meeting and let your thoughts be known.

Steven Fuller

1) Should the city allow recreational marijuana shops to operate? Why or why not?

My initial concern is that Amendment 64 is still in violation of federal drugs laws. It would be great if the federal government would respond to recent changes in state legislation so, at the local level, we had an idea of potential future repercussions. What can we do when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency raids a store or a grow operation that the city of Rifle has approved? If we do decide to scoff at the federal law, I would rather support industrial hemp.

2) Do you think these stores can help increase the city’s sales tax picture to any great degree? Why or why not?

The only redeeming quality of recreational marijuana is its potential to produce tax revenue. However, there is strong opposition to taxes in Rifle, so receiving local tax could easily not be an option. If we are going to make it easier for people to use a drug, operate vehicles and other machinery under its influence, and share it with children, then we had better be generating revenue to help pay for the consequences. Of course, all of that depends on whether or not marijuana sellers can be convinced to pay taxes in a business that is almost entirely cash-based because the banks do not want to be associated with dealings that are still in violation of federal law.

3) How much weight do you give to the fact Rifle voters narrowly (by nine votes) opposed Amendment 64 in deciding whether or not to allow the businesses to operate?

Only nine votes seems hard to believe when you consider the number of medical marijuana stores that Rifle has per capita. Are there really that many sick people in this city? If so, then we need to focus our efforts elsewhere. If not, then we need them to share their secret to operating such profitable businesses in Rifle.

Hans Parkinson did not respond to the questions.


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