Marijuana: Boulder rejects pot shop ban, but councilman urges caution moving forward
Update: Yesterday, we noted that the Boulder City Attorney's office planned a presentation suggesting that city council approve a moratorium until at least 2014 on new marijuana retail outlets legalized under Amendemnt 64; see previous coverage below. Last night, the council chose not to go forward with such an ordinance until the public and stakeholders can weigh in. Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles sees that as the right call.
Cowles, an attorney by trade, was unable to attend last night's meeting because he's preparing for a big trial. But he favors the delay in approving any ordinance that might prohibit retail outlets.
In his words, "I think what we want to do at the city council in Boulder is take a longer look at this -- get some public input before making a decision about how we proceed."
At the same time, he understands the arguments put forward by the city attorney.
"With the medical marijuana regulations, we went out substantially in front of the state -- formulated our regulations before the state had come up with theirs," he notes. "And that resulted in a lot of extra work for the city attorney's office and staff. We want to avoid doing that -- wasting staff time to the extent we can -- by having a better coordinated effort. And I think it makes sense to take this slowly, one step at a time, and see what the state is going to do.
"The state has a problem, too," he goes on, "because this issue tends to eat up huge amounts of staff resources at whatever level at which it's located, because of the uncertainties of the law at the local, state and federal levels. The federal government has this insane war on drugs going on that has huge ramifications for people at every level of our government and for society in general. There's a huge devotion of resources. And now a private moneymaking industry has been built up around the war on drugs to try to collar people, and it has unintended and very severe consequences not only here, but in other countries as well, like we're seeing in Mexico."
The Boulder City Council "wants to respect the will of the voters to legalize marijuana in the State of Colorado," he stresses. "But we really can't act alone on this. There has to be coordination with some of the other government entities that are responsible for this."
Yesterday, senior assistant city attorney Kathy Haddock argued against delaying action until the federal government announces whether or not it will allow Colorado to move forward with implementing the measure. After all, she said, A64's language establishes a timeline and the feds aren't on a schedule. Cowles adds another reason for alacrity.
"The problem with waiting for the federal government is that we may be waiting a long time," he points out. "The people have said, 'We want to legalize marijuana under this constitutional amendment,' and I don't know that it means we should wait. But on the other hand, I don't think people want us to approach this in a way that really degrades other governmental services because we're regulating a new industry and trying to figure out how it's done.
"There's so much now that's in play. Conceivably you could have liquor stores wanting to get into this business as an adjunct to selling wine, spirits and beer. And we're hearing concerns from medical marijuana establishments who say, 'Wait a minute. Regulation in this sphere is going to have a huge impact on our businesses, and we've got a lot at stake here.' And since it's certainly not government's role to pick winners and losers in developing a new industry, we need to hear from these establishments and other people who are concerned."
The questions raised by Amendment 64 are fascinating, Cowles maintains. "I'm 64 years old, and we've been talking about the legalization of marijuana since I was in college -- and here we are. But it's not quite as easy as one day it's illegal and the next day it's legal. Just because of the infrastructure that's been built to make the use of marijuana a crime and to aggressively go after the people who are involved in the growing and transporting of it means you have to plan and proceed more carefully, until the day when Amendment 64 can be incorporated into our day-to-day lives."
Continue to see our previous coverage, including the complete moratorium presentation prepared by the Boulder City Attorney's office.