Council Connection


Denver's Recreational Marijuana Licensing Ordinance

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8/30/2013 12:45 PM  RssIcon

To co-locate or not to co-locate, that is the question.  Actually, it is only one of the many licensing and regulation questions that Denver City Council has to decide regarding recreational marijuana.  

In case you missed it, last November the Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, legalizing recreational marijuana in the state.  The passage of Amendment 64 instructed the Colorado State Legislature and local governments to regulate recreational marijuana like alcohol or to officially opt out of allowing retail marijuana in their jurisdictions.  Deadlines for lawmakers were set for the creation of regulations.  The State Legislature met its July 01, 2013 deadline, and now it is up to the Denver City Council to set up a local regulation structure by October 01, 2013.

Over the last few months the Denver City Council has been meeting weekly to discuss the components of the licensing and regulation ordinance.  Throughout this process there have been rich public comment and stakeholder discussions.  The ordinance will regulate retail stores, growing and manufacturing operations, and lab testing facilities.  The operations costs for regulations will be at least partially funded by the proposed 3.5 % sales tax on recreational marijuana - if the voters approve the tax this November.    

Council has established a 2-year transition period, during which only existing medical marijuana centers in good standing may convert to recreational marijuana or co-locate and sell both medical and recreational marijuana. 

Two of the more contentious topics have been separation distances, or buffer areas, and public hearings for conversion of medical marijuana centers and co-location of medical and retail outlets.  The buffer area refers to the distance between marijuana stores – both retail and medical – schools/childcare centers, and alcohol/drug treatment facilities.  To date the Council has chosen 1,000 feet as an adequate buffer area, the same as the current separation distance required for medical marijuana.   The Council is recommending required public hearings for all establishments that wish to convert from medical to retail and co-location of retail at the same locations of existing medical marijuana centers.  These will not be traditional “needs and desires” hearings like liquor licensing, but they will provide a forum for the public and the city to discuss concerns and bring forth information regarding illegal activities or other issues with these existing businesses.       

Click here to view the draft licensing and regulation ordinance CB13-0570.  The draft ordinance passed Council Committee and will be introduced during the City Council meeting on Monday, September 9th.  That same evening, there will also be a one-hour courtesy public hearing on the measure. 

Next week’s blog will examine CB13-0501, which, if adopted, would impose a fee on plastic and paper bags at grocery stores.   

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