If you go

What: First reading by Louisville City Council on retail marijuana

When: 7 p.m., Tuesday

Where: Louisville City Hall, 749 Main St.

Louisville's two medical marijuana dispensaries will be allowed to convert to retail sales of the drug if the City Council passes a series of measures delineating the future of retail pot here, with a first reading of four ordinances scheduled for Tuesday.

But the ultimate say on the issue will belong to the voters, who will likely decide via a ballot measure next year whether retail pot shops in Louisville should be legal.

If the two dispensaries -- Compassionate Pain Management and Altermeds -- convert to retail operations over the next few months and voters then decide in November not to allow recreational marijuana storefronts, the dispensaries would have to revert to medical marijuana sales or shut down altogether.

CPM owner Shaun Gindi said it's worth the risk to seek a dual medical and recreational license for his dispensary in the Colony Square shopping center during the lead-up to next year's election.

"I think it will get voted through, but it will take some work," he said.


Sixty-three percent of voters in Louisville last year approved Amendment 64, the statewide ballot measure that legalized the possession and use of small amounts of pot for anyone 21 and over in Colorado. The amendment also let municipalities decide for themselves how to regulate retail marijuana operations or whether to permit them at all.

Gindi said he's certain that the majority of residents in the city intended for there to be a limited number of pot shops as part of their support of Amendment 64.

"I think that everybody who voted for it knew what they were voting for," he said.

Over the summer, Louisville appeared on track to become one of the first communities in Colorado to roll out the welcome mat for retail pot shops. It cobbled together a set of regulations for the stores, including 1,320-foot setbacks from schools and playgrounds, no stores downtown, a maximum size of 2,000 square feet per shop and a limit of four storefronts in the city.

But a last-minute groundswell of opposition emerged from residents who didn't want marijuana sold in the city. In October, the City Council passed a moratorium on the licensing of any retail marijuana establishments until after the November 2014 election.

Louisville Mayor Bob Muckle said it's best to put such a hot button issue to the voters directly rather than trying to divine from City Hall what they might have wanted. The cost to refer the measure to the ballot is expected to cost the city between $30,000 and $50,000.

"You can't put every issue on the ballot, but this is an important issue that should be decided by the voters," Muckle said.

Councilman Jay Keany, who has been one of the stronger supporters on council of allowing retail pot shops in the city, said he has no problem letting the issue go to the ballot but he doesn't like how the measure is currently structured.

Not only does it ask whether retail shops should be outlawed, but it also asks voters whether marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities should be banned as well.

"We ought to separate retail sales from cultivation, manufacturing and testing," Keany said. "People are more averse to cultivation facilities than they are to well-managed retail sites."

He said Altermeds and CPM have been exemplary Louisville businesses since they opened four years ago.

"These two existing businesses have been good citizens of Louisville, and I feel that giving them the opportunity to convert to a dual license is a prudent thing to do," Keany said.

One of the ordinances the council is voting on Tuesday would amend the moratorium to allow the two operating dispensaries to convert to retail operations starting next year.

Altermeds owner, Laurel Alterman, said she is pleased that Louisville's leaders are considering the dispensaries' good track records and allowing them the option to convert, despite the moratorium that's in place. With her store also located in the Colony Square shopping center, Alterman said there's practically no danger children or families with children will be exposed to cannabis commerce in Louisville.

"They've got two straight-ahead businesses that do everything by the book," she said, referring to her dispensary and nearby CPM. "We're here in the best possible zoning district -- we're not near a school, a church or a residential neighborhood. I think the city has the best situation here."

Contact Camera Staff Writer John Aguilar at 303-473-1389, aguilarj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/abuvthefold.