Littleton City Countil approves moratorium on pot shops, clubs

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Ban set to expire by Oct. 1

By Ramsey Scott

The Littleton City Council has approved a moratorium on marijuana retail shops and marijuana clubs in the city.

The moratorium, approved 6-1 by the council on March 6, is set to expire by Oct. 1, the date when municipalities in Colorado must decide whether or not to allow retail marijuana shops within city limits and how they will be regulated. It is also the deadline for cities that will allow shops to start accepting applications for retail licenses.

During the first reading of the moratorium, on Feb. 19, City Attorney Kristin Schledorn said the main reason Littleton was pursuing the moratorium was to keep marijuana clubs from opening before regulations are in place.

Yet there is a good chance the moratorium will be repealed before its Oct. 1 expiration date.

The state legislature has a July 1 deadline to adopt regulations for the retail marijuana trade. Several City Council members, including the one dissenting vote on the ban, Councilman Jerry Valdes, urged acting city manager Michael Penny to work on having proposed regulations finished by July 1.

“I would much rather see (the deadline) go to July 1. Let’s just be aggressive about it instead of kicking back and seeing what everyone else is going to do,” Valdes said.

Valdes also pointed out the irony that the council was focusing on the marijuana issue while not discussing at length the proposed new Breckenridge Brewery in Littleton.

“I think, again, because this is marijuana, everyone is worried about it,” Valdes said. “Tonight we talked barely about Breckenridge without any issue, but yet alcohol is a major problem throughout the city and the state, everywhere. But we didn’t give that any consideration. On this one, where I see it as less of a problem, I think we’re treating it far more strict than we do alcohol.”

While some on the council urged the city to be expedient in its approach, others urged caution. Councilman Jim Taylor, who also wants to see rules put in place before Oct. 1, reminded the council of the city’s experience with medical marijuana.

“When medical marijuana came along, we got ahead of the game,” Taylor said. “We had to go back and redo a lot of our rules because we were ahead of the game.”

Taylor, who is in favor of regulating and taxing marijuana, said he was voting for the moratorium to give the city time to come up with regulations for marijuana clubs.

While the moratorium was approved, there was a slight change in the wording of the resolution. Taylor proposed removing language that he considered to be biased against the retail marijuana trade.

In the section stating the city’s desire to study the effects of marijuana shops and clubs to provide the council with information, Taylor asked that the phrase “as to whether such uses should be permitted at any location in the city” be deleted.

“The rest of that sentence gives an assumption that I don’t think we ought to be presenting,” Taylor said.

The amendment passed 6-1, with Mayor Debbie Brinkman opposed to removing the language.

Littleton’s action comes four months after Coloradans voted to legalize the use and sale of recreational marijuana, and as other municipalities and the state’s counties struggle with regulating the new retail marijuana trade.

Contact Ramsey Scott at ramsey@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22.