Did You Know? Lifting the Ban on Recreational Marijuana Sales In Littleton?

MJCity Council considered a motion lifting the ban on recreational marijuana in Littleton that was enacted in July of 2014.

Currently Littleton has four medical marijuana shops.   If the proposed ordinance is passed by council the medical marijuana shops would have the option to apply for a retail (recreational) marijuana store license allowing them to sell both medical and recreational marijuana or they would be able to apply for a retail (recreational) marijuana store license and relinquish their license to sell medical marijuana.

The issue of selling both medical and recreational marijuana poses a series of problems – none that can’t be overcome but nonetheless problems that need to be considered before lifting the ban.

For instance, the medical marijuana requires the patrons to be 18 years of age and the recreational patrons have to be 21 years of age.  To have a dual operation marijuana shops would need separate entrances.  Council would have to decide whether or not they would allow for a common foyer for both types of patrons.

The city has determined that any marijuana shop has to be located within certain distances from schools, daycare, public parks, correctional facilities, half-way houses and from each other but that was not determined until after the current four shops were approved.   The proposed ordinance to lift the ban would allow those four sites, even if within the prescribed buffer zones, would be allowed to have a dual license.

The marijuana industry had three requests for changes to the proposed ordinance.   One dealt with the transferability of the license, second dealt with the quantity sold changing it from per day to per transaction, and thirdly, the packaging requirements had to be consistent with state requirements.

As with all legislation there is most likely a fiscal impact and with marijuana sales the fiscal impact can be great.  If Littleton lifts the ban on recreational marijuana sales the city’s sales tax revenue projections would increase by $231,000 if two stores converted,  $346,500 if three stores converted and  $462,000 if all four current shops in Littleton converted to both medical and recreational sales of marijuana.

The public hearing was almost three hours long consisting of a parade of owners and employees of medical marijuana shops in Littleton supporting the lifting of the ban.  All four shops in Littleton are running a respectable business and employing citizens with a living wage.  Although a tally was not taken there were a significant number of citizens that opposed the lifting of the ban from doctors and professionals that worked with addiction patients to concerned citizens about what this may bring to our city and children that far out weighed the revenue it may bring.

When it came time to vote Debbie Brinkman moved to postpone the motion indefinitely (a motion that had never been made and should have been made prior to the public hearing).  Her motion failed on a 3/3 vote with Doug Clark, Jerry Valdes and Bruce Beckman voting no.  (Yes votes were from Debbie Brinkman, Peggy Cole and Phil Cernanec.)

Doug Clark then made the motion to approve the Ordinance.  Jerry Valdes seconded. Clark, a non-drinker and non-smoker, was in favor of passing because citizens of Littleton supported past marijuana measures.  He believed he needed to reflect the desires of the citizens.  Peggy Cole said she could not support the ordinance based on the number of conversations she had had with citizens that were opposed.  Debbie Brinkman stated that she is adamantly opposed to marijuana.  Phil Cernanec said he would not say anything new or tremendously insightful.  He talked to the “shadow government” in his district and they said No.  Jerry Valdes said if the ban is not lifted now it will come back but right now Littleton is not ready for retail  (recreational) marijuana.  Bruce Beckman did not support the proposed ordinance.  Marijuana possession is still a federal crime but until a change takes place he was not comfortable lifting the ban.

The lifting of the ban on recreational marijuana was not passed on a 1/5 vote with Doug Clark in support.  (Bill Hopping was absent.)  Rest assured that this issue is not dead.  It will be back in front of the citizens of Littleton most likely in the form of a ballot question for the voters to decide.  The big question is – who will write the question?  The marijuana industry or the city council?