Medical marijuana centers cost Boulder more than they bring in?
Last week, Boulder City Council extended a nine-month moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses. It was a surprising move for a community perceived as medical-pot friendly. But senior assistant city attorney Kathy Haddock argues that it was necessary due in part to the belief that MMJ is not nearly the cash cow it's advertised as being.
Haddock hasn't personally crunched all the data, and even if she had, her expertise isn't in budgeting. Still, she suspects that "it's not a matter of whether we're in the red, but how much we're in the red.
"My fees alone, if we put a number on them, as the city does for its internal calculating, take up half of the fees paid by the businesses. And even though my work on this is a lot, it's not half of the total work the city does. It's much less than that. And knowing how much more time other people put into this, and seeing some of the analysis from other departments, there's no question the impact has been very broad and much more than anybody anticipated -- and very intense, with the glut of applications."
The set-up costs alone were staggering, Haddock notes.
The 2012 Boulder City Council.
"We had to write our regulations because the city council directed that we go ahead and allow these businesses before the state had written its laws," she points out. "And the way the state law was written, they don't even start looking at the businesses until the local governments decide to issue a license -- and they don't look at things like zoning and land use. They do inspections for security issues and things like that, but they don't have to do all the building review things, like fire-suppression stuff, that happens at the city level. The city's staff is involved in those things, and it's been overwhelming at times."
Wouldn't sales tax offset some of these expenses? Not by Haddock's calculations. "Sales tax isn't supposed to cover cost related to a particular program, but the peripheral things government has to do to support businesses -- like law-enforcement responses and the cost of keeping up the streets, so people can get to dispensaries. It's not supposed to reimburse the city for the cost of running one particular type of business."
Hence, the moratorium, which Haddock characterizes as "not just a breather -- it's a pause on the activity, so we can do some analysis. Because otherwise, we're trying to do analysis on a moving target, and we don't have the resources to do that and process applications at the same time."
Page down to see more details about the reasons behind the moratorium.