If you go
What: Boulder City Council
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
Info: The meeting has been moved to Wednesday from Tuesday due to the Passover holiday. To read the memo on the marijuana regulation changes and to see the complete agenda, go to bit.ly/1nn6sLZ.
Boulder medical marijuana businesses planning to convert to recreational pot sales will have until May 31 to do so or be required to apply as if they were a new marijuana business under ordinance changes proposed by the City Attorney's Office.
The City Council in November decided to allow existing medical marijuana businesses to convert to recreational sales or operate in "co-location," under which they can sell both recreational and medical marijuana, even if their location would not be allowed for a new marijuana business.
Those new businesses will not be allowed to locate within 1,000 feet of a school, including the University of Colorado and Naropa University.
Before, city code restricted businesses within 500 feet of an elementary or secondary school, but federal prosectors sent warning letters to businesses within 1,000 feet of schools because enhanced sentencing guidelines kick in within that buffer zone.
City code also does not allow more than three marijuana businesses within 500 feet. That restriction has been on the books for years, but some early medical marijuana businesses remain grandfathered.
The City Attorney's Office is asking for a number of changes to Boulder's marijuana regulations to address areas where confusion has arisen or is likely to arise. The City Council is scheduled to take an initial vote on those changes on Wednesday, with a second vote and public hearing likely to occur in May.
Boulder will start taking applications for new marijuana businesses on June 1, though with the state licensing process, none of those new businesses will open until October.
The proposed ordinance change would mean any businesses that haven't converted by then would have to apply as new businesses and would not be grandfathered in if their locations don't conform to those new rules.
Shawn Coleman, a consultant who represents many marijuana businesses, said that change won't affect many of his clients, but some businesses have been trying to save up the money to pay for the extensive remodeling Boulder requires for businesses that want to sell to both the medical and recreational market. Now those businesses might not get to convert at all, he said.
There are 71 licensed medical marijuana businesses in the city. Of those, 29 have applied to convert or co-locate, and 19 of those have been processed. Ten are still pending.
Senior Assistant City Attorney Kathy Haddock said marijuana businesses aren't being treated any differently than other businesses.
"There's a general land-use principle that if a business is a non-conforming use, it doesn't get to keep expanding or changing," she said. "They just don't have to tear it all down. There is a window for exceptions, but that window isn't open forever."
The proposed ordinance changes also clarify that signs can have only the name and address of the business and that all packaging except for shake being rolled into cigarettes has to occur at grow facilities, not at retail sites.
It also adds "indicia of intoxication" that police officers and prosecutors should use when determining whether someone is driving or operating a boat while stoned.
"There are so many things in this ordinance where the so-called solution makes it harder for the business owners, so I wonder about the goal," said Coleman, who added that it seems city officials want to limit the growth of the marijuana industry.
Haddock said that has never been the direction of the City Council and is not the intention of her office. For example, marijuana needs to be packaged at the cultivation site because it's much easier to track that way, not to create a hardship for businesses, she said.
"It's not about limiting the size of the industry, though they don't want marijuana taking over all the industrial space or all the retail space," she said. "It's about percentages, not the overall size."