Year in review: Rifle bans retail pot shops
The City of Rifle was one of many Colorado municipalities and governments in 2013 to decide if recreational marijuana could be sold in its jurisdiction in 2014 and beyond.
After a couple of public hearings and workshops, City Council, on a 6-1 vote, banned retail marijuana, manufacturing and testing businesses. However, by a 5-2 vote, the council allowed marijuana cultivation operations in the city.
The actions were called for by Colorado voters’ passage of Amendment 64 in 2012, which legalized the use and sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults. The amendment gave local governments the option of banning such businesses or placing the question before local voters in 2014.
Mike Miller, co-owner of Green Cross Dispensary and Wellness Center medical marijuana store in downtown Rifle, told the council at an October hearing that if the city did not allow retail stores to operate, it would lose sales tax revenue.
“And you’ll still be dealing with the impacts, because the marijuana is still going to come back” to Rifle, he said. “It’s still going to have to be policed” to try to keep it away from children.
Finance Director Charles Kelty said his records show the city received $55,000 in sales tax revenue from the city’s five medical marijuana businesses last year.
School Resource Officer Dustin Marantino said he had seen how big a problem prescription drug abuse is among youth “and that comes in child resistant packages, just like marijuana and the products they sell.”
“I’m greatly concerned at the prospect of Rifle condoning marijuana use by allowing these stores,” Marantino continued. “Once the availability goes up for those 21 and older, you’ll see use by youth go through the roof, too.”
Councilman Jonathan Rice called the issue the hardest and most important decision he had to make in 10 years on the council.
“For me, I find it very hard to get past my being in violation of my oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution,” he said. “I feel Colorado is in violation of federal law by allowing this, and that’s enough for me to say no.”
Toward the end of 2013, one of Rifle’s medical marijuana dispensaries, Green Valley Medical Marijuana Center, 1150 Railroad Ave., closed down.
However, four marijuana cultivation facilities could be in operation next year, limited to industrial-zoned areas of the city.
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