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Littleton enacts 1-year moratorium on sales of recreational marijuana

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By Ramsey Scott

Littleton will not allow retail marijuana shops to open for a year. 

The City Council voted 6-1 on Oct. 1 to place a one-year moratorium on both retail marijuana sales and on marijuana social clubs, with Councilman Jim Taylor casting the dissenting vote. 

The moratorium is set to expire in October 2014. At that time, the council will need to take action to extend the ban, make it permanent or allow retail marijuana shops to open. 

Taylor has been a vocal proponent of allowing retail marijuana due to the tax revenue it could generate for the city. Littleton projected the initial revenues from allowing retail marijuana would be about $120,000 a year.

The council had been leaning toward allowing the retail pot businesses, then did an abrupt reversal at its Sept. 3 meeting and planned to ban them. On Oct. 1, Councilman Jerry Valdes proposed switching from a ban to a moratorium.

Valdez said during the hearing on the ordinance that the city has more problems with liquor stores and bars than it does with medical marijuana establishments. 

Several proponents of allowing retail marijuana had urged the council to switch the ordinance to a moratorium instead of an outright ban, including father and daughter James and Melissa Van Diest, who own the Hemp Center medical marijuana dispensary in Littleton.  

The state expected local governments to make a decision on whether they would allow retail marijuana stores by Oct. 1, when current medical marijuana businesses may begin applying for recreational marijuana business licenses.

Mayor Debbie Brinkman, who has been one of the loudest voices on the council against retail marijuana, eventually voted to approve the moratorium. 

She said the city has an opportunity to handle retail marijuana differently than it did medical marijuana. Brinkman said she didn’t want Littleton to be the test case on retail marijuana for all of the south metro area. 

Most of the surrounding areas, including unincorporated Jeffco, have either placed a moratorium or a ban on retail marijuana. 

“When we met with our educators, it was clear that they deal with alcohol and drugs in the schools more than any of us probably realize,” Brinkman said during the hearing. “The one thing they said about retail marijuana was, ‘Please don’t make this more accessible than it already is. Please don't continue to desensitize these kids.’ It was a strong outreach for me, and it was important.” 

 

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