What: Boulder City Council
When: 6 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
More info: For more information, go to bouldercolorado.gov and look under "C" for City Council.
Boulder voters backed Amendment 64 legalizing recreational marijuana use and sales at even higher rates than other parts of the state, but the Boulder City Attorney's Office wants the city to ban non-medical marijuana stores.
In a memo to the City Council, City Attorney Tom Carr and Senior Assistant City Attorney Kathy Haddock recommend the city not allow recreational marijuana retail stores in the city for at least the next two years.
Amendment 64 mandates that the state come up with licensing regulations no later than July 2013 and that municipalities draft any ordinances or rules by October 2013. It also allows municipalities to ban recreational marijuana retail stores within their limits.
The Boulder City Council plans to discuss the recommendation and Amendment 64's implications for the city at Tuesday's meeting.
The City Attorney's Office said in the memo that it will be very difficult for the city to develop an ordinance and go through the public hearing process in between July, when the state regulations will be known, and October. Rather than rush that process, they suggest banning non-medical marijuana retail stores and revisiting the issue in late 2014.
Haddock said the recommendation is based on the short timeframe for implementation and doesn't reflect any opinion for or against recreational marijuana stores.
"There may be social considerations about how they'll be different, but from a staff level, our experience with the state with the medical is that they still haven't issued licenses yet to many businesses," she said.
Haddock said the way Amendment 64 is written gives the state most of the licensing authority, but the state has basically stopped processing medical marijuana store licenses, leaving many businesses not inspected and in limbo. The city may not want to allow recreational marijuana stores, only to find itself without state support in enforcement.
Marijuana advocates say banning stores now is premature and might hurt Boulder's existing medical marijuana industry. Industry observers believe the medical model will gradually disappear because customers, even those with real medical issues, will have no reason to submit paperwork and pay fees to the state for a medical marijuana card when they can buy the drug without one.
Boulder attorney Jeff Gard, who represents a number of medical marijuana businesses, said many of his clients already have consulted with him about making the transition to being a recreational marijuana dispensary. If Boulder were to ban recreational stores, that could leave the existing medical stores with a dwindling customer base and no way to adapt, he said.
"It seems to me unwise to resist the end of marijuana prohibition," he said. "The better thing would be to regulate it responsibly."
Josh Kappel, associate director of Sensible Colorado, which backed Amendment 64, said the only other local government that has taken steps to ban recreational marijuana stores is Douglas County, where 54.5 percent of voters opposed it.
In contrast, 66.1 percent of Boulder voters favored the amendment, compared to 54.8 percent statewide.
"If the Boulder City Council does not implement Amendment 64, they are ignoring the will of the voters," Kappel said.
Local bans on stores won't affect people's right to possess up to an ounce of marijuana under Amendment 64.
Boulder Councilwoman K.C. Becker said she isn't sure voters really wanted marijuana stores in town so much as they wanted to decriminalize possession at the local and state level. She said she suspects many other towns will ban recreational marijuana stores, and the medical model will continue to be viable for some time.
"They're being awfully optimistic that other communities are going to allow this," she said of industry advocates. "My prediction is that most localities in Boulder County are going to pass bans on it in the short term for the same reasons, until they figure out what the feds and state are going to do."
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who opposed Amendment 64 but said he would respect the will of the voters, has proposed a task force to work on implementing the law.
Boulder Mayor Matt Appelbaum said he's sensitive to the high level of support for marijuana legalization in Boulder, but the City Council also needs to consider all the implications of allowing stores now.
"Clearly people are interested in it, but we have a responsibility to do it right," he said. "We need to get a lot more clarity on these issues before we can act."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org.