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City’s ban on sales of recreational pot made permanent

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By Ramsey Scott

The Littleton City Council has banned sales of recreational marijuana and commercial growing operations in the city.

The council, on a 4-3 vote July 1, made permanent a temporary moratorium on retail sales and growing operations that had been in place since October 2013. That moratorium was set to expire this October. 

Council members Bruce Beckman, Debbie Brinkman, Randy Stein and Bruce Stahlman voted in favor of the ban. 

Amendment 64, the voter-approved measure that legalized use and sales of recreational marijuana, allows towns and counties to ban retail sales. While Littleton voters approved a sales tax on any retail marijuana sales in 2013, Brinkman said that doesn’t mean they want retail sales in the city.

“I believe the voters approved the personal use of marijuana. I do not believe voters approved retail marijuana in downtown Littleton or anywhere else in Littleton,” Brinkman said during the July 1 meeting. “I’m not going to throw my hands up in the air and say, ‘Well, they're going to buy it somewhere; we might as well tax it here.’ That’s not what my decision is based on.”

A dozen people spoke before the vote, with many favoring a permanent moratorium. They cited public safety and the social costs of Littleton becoming a destination for buyers of recreational pot. 

Four medical marijuana dispensaries currently are operating in the city. During discussions on possibly allowing retail sales, the City Council indicated it would have allowed only those four shops to offer retail sales. 

Those opposed to the ban spoke about the potential revenue that would be lost and said regulations put in place by the state are adequate. Littleton projected it would receive about $120,000 annually from a 3 percent sales tax on retail marijuana. 

Council member Jerry Valdes, who has favored allowing retail sales, said residents who want to smoke pot would do so regardless of the council’s decision. Valdes said that, at his high school reunion, people talked about friends who had died of alcohol abuse, not from smoking marijuana. 

“I think people in the city of Littleton who are inclined to purchase retail marijuana, they will still do so. They just won’t be in the city of Littleton, and then they’ll bring it into the city,” Valdes said. “I’m not going to sit up here and say voters didn't know this and didn't know that. I think the people that voted for this regulation, they gave it thought. It is a tough one to vote for, and I think they did give it thought.”

The ban doesn’t affect Littleton residents’ ability to grow marijuana in their homes for personal use, as long as there are no restrictions from landlords or homeowner associations.

 

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine. Check www.columbinecourier.com for updates.