Cities and towns in eastern Boulder County have yet to decide how they're going to handle the decision by Colorado voters to legalize use and possession of marijuana, but most aren't waiting long to get the discussion going.
Elected leaders in Louisville, Erie and Superior have plans to weigh in publicly on the issue in the first couple of months of the new year. Fred Diehl, spokesman for Erie, said the Board of Trustees has already made it plain which way it leans.
"The board has asked staff to prepare an ordinance banning retail stores that sell recreational marijuana," he said Wednesday, Dec. 19.
Erie already disallows medical marijuana dispensaries in town.
Meanwhile, the Broomfield City Council plans to vote Jan. 22 on a first reading of an ordinance temporarily banning marijuana-related businesses through 2014, at which point residents would get the chance to vote on the issue. Medical marijuana shops are not allowed in the city now.
Lafayette likely won't take up the issue until the summer, after state legislators craft rules and regulations that deal with some of the unanswered questions involving the brand-new industry. The city went through an arduous rule-making process last year regarding medical marijuana growing operations and dispensaries.
There is a single dispensary on South Boulder Road in Lafayette.
Municipalities have discretion
Last month, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which made it legal for state residents 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana and up to six marijuana plants. The retail stores that would be responsible for selling pot statewide won't be established for another year.
Pot possession is still illegal under federal law, though President Obama said last week that the federal government would not arrest individual marijuana users in the two states -- Colorado and Washington -- where the drug has been legalized.
Police departments throughout Boulder County -- including Boulder, Louisville and Lafayette -- began telling their officers shortly after the amendment passed last month to no longer ticket people found with an ounce or less of pot in their possession.
Lafayette Police Chief Rick Bashor said his force will still keep a lookout for underage users and those driving under the influence of THC.
"We'll be updating our municipal ordinances to be consistent with state law," he said. "Our goal is to make sure we have a safe community and that those who decide to use it do so safely."
Between now and when the state's new rules are put in place, municipalities across Colorado will begin the process of deciding whether and how to allow the industry within their borders.
"We can have the discussion and then we can formulate an ordinance or whatever is needed," said Superior Town Manager Matt Magley.
Magley said he wouldn't be surprised to see trustees pursue a ban on pot stores given the town's position on the medical marijuana industry. Superior was the second municipality in Colorado to ban dispensaries 2 1/2 years ago.
Louisville City Manager Malcolm Fleming said the City Council will get its first crack at Amendment 64 during its Jan. 29 study session, when it will get details on the measure and ideas on how to incorporate it into the city code.
The city has two medical marijuana dispensaries on the west side of town.
"The options include prohibiting retail marijuana stores, allowing retail marijuana stores under certain conditions ... perhaps similar to the current regulations governing medical marijuana dispensaries," Fleming wrote in an email Wednesday. "Or do not address the matter and leave it up to the state to regulate and enforce state regulations."
The Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force, assembled by Gov. John Hickenlooper, met for the first time this week and is charged with figuring out how to implement the new law and help the state Legislature tackle the thorny issues of marijuana retail sales, taxation and regulation.
Ban could 'forfeit revenue'
Laurel Alterman, owner of AlterMeds in Louisville, said she hopes the city allows recreational marijuana stores to set up shop in the same way it did with medical marijuana stores.
She doesn't view the new storefronts as competition because she intends to convert her dispensary in the Colony Square Shopping Center into a retail center once state rules are in place to do so. Eventually, she said, dispensaries would probably die out in Colorado as marijuana retail outlets available to any adult customer become the norm.
"Why would somebody become a medical marijuana patient if all they have to do is show their I.D.?" Alterman asked.
Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project and a co-director of the Amendment 64 campaign, said towns and cities are free to exercise their discretion -- or leave it up to a vote of their residents -- when deciding whether pot shops can operate in their borders.
But for those that implement a ban, they risk leaving a lot of money on the table. He estimated that even with medical marijuana legal in Colorado, 80 percent of cannabis sales have taken place on the illicit -- and untaxed -- black market."(Marijuana sales) represent a significant amount of sales tax revenue," Tvert said. "If the locality doesn't want retail shops and is willing to forfeit that revenue to surrounding communities, that is their right."