The Boulder City Council wrestled Tuesday with how to craft rules for recreational marijuana before the state has made its rules and before neighboring communities, including Denver, have made decisions about whether to allow non-medical pot shops.
A majority of City Council members favored a moratorium until sometime in 2014 to give the city more time to respond to whatever rules the the state legislature develops. City Council members also favored imposing either sales or excise taxes on marijuana, and Boulder voters may see a ballot measure this November on a pot tax.
The Boulder City Attorney's Office has recommended a moratorium to allow more time for city officials to develop rules.
"If we start issuing licenses (immediately) after the state does, we'll be using a model based on medical marijuana, and we don't know that that's the right model," Councilman Macon Cowles said.
He said most medical marijuana businesses want the city to allow recreational or adult-use marijuana businesses as soon as possible, so they can transition to the new model.
But Cowles said he would like to hear from more marijuana users, rather than business owners.
For example, the draft ordinance placed strict limits on where people could smoke marijuana. Even an enclosed backyard would be considered a public place for purposes of enforcement.
"I think we have a fear that if we open the gates too wide, we're going to have a Cheech and Chong situation," he said. "I think a lot of people voted for this because they want it to finally be out in the open, but we don't know how open people want it to be."
But Councilwoman Lisa Morzel said the city needs to remember that Boulder voters overwhelmingly supported Amendment 64, which made marijuana legal in small amounts for adults 21 and older and directed the state to come up with a regulatory regime for retail businesses.
Broomfield and Lafayette have adopted moratoriums, with Broomfield's extending until January 2015 and Lafayette's set to expire in October 2013, when the state will start accepting applications.
Superior and Westminster have banned marijuana businesses.
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said his biggest concern is what Denver will do.
"I do not want us to be the only ones allowing this," he said.
The City Council unanimously adopted two ordinances on Tuesday, one modifying the medical marijuana ordinance to comply with Amendment 64, as well as other changes, and the other creating a municipal ordinance against underage marijuana use, similar to the minor in possession ordinance on alcohol.
The City Council will take up additional regulations on the recreational marijuana industry later this spring, as well as a moratorium, though how long it will last hasn't been decided yet.
The formal recommendations of a state task force on marijuana rules are set to be published Monday, and the state Legislature will take up the matter next.
Amendment 64 requires that the state start accepting license applications on Oct. 1 and start issuing licenses on Jan. 1, 2014.
The draft ordinance before the City Council keeps most of the regulations and licensing requirements developed for the medical marijuana industry.
However, under that model, businesses are limited by the number of registered patients they have. Recreational marijuana businesses would not have that limit. Officials proposed creating limits on the size of grow operations and limiting owners to just one facility.
The ordinance also bans smoking pot in any public place and imposes a limit of six plants in a single dwelling unit, regardless of how many adults live there.
City Attorney Tom Carr said growing large amounts of marijuana in private houses represents a safety concern.
Councilman Ken Wilson said he has significant concerns about children having more access to marijuana.
Christian Sederberg, one of the drafters of Amendment 64, said no one wants children using marijuana, but they have easy access to the drug already.
"The idea is that having taxed and regulated stores would reduce the underground market that provides other drugs to kids," he said. "If they have a business license to protect, they'll do everything possible to not sell marijuana to people under 21 or people who would transfer it to them."
Sat Nam Singh Bedi said the prospect of drug-related tourism could change Boulder's reputation, while Carolyn Carlat said she's concerned about the community impact of more pot shops and growing operations. She said she has chemical sensitivity and already cannot live in either of her homes due, in part, to odors from marijuana.
Boulder County Public Health Executive Director Jeff Zayach said his department is collecting research about the effects of marijuana on younger users, and he has serious concerns about changing social norms.
However, alcohol has more negative individual and community consequences, he said.