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Littleton makes first move to ban retail pot stores

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By Ramsey Scott

Littleton City Council took the first step to permanently ban retail marijuana stores within city limits, much to the dismay of a medical marijuana store owner in the city. 

On a 4-3 vote, the council approved an ordinance banning retail marijuana sales on first reading during its meeting on June 3. The ordinance’s second reading will be July 1, and the meeting will include a presentation by city staff and public comment before a final vote.  

The council was presented with two ordinance proposals on June 3: one banning retail sales and another 23-page ordinance that would allow pot sales in the city. The longer ordinance wasn’t needed once council members Debbie Brinkman, Randy Stein, Bruce Beckman and Bruce Stahlman voted to move forward with a permanent ban.  

Mayor Phil Cernanec said before the vote that he would vote against the ban to allow for more discussion during the July 1 meeting. Cernanec had voted for the moratorium banning retail sales that’s currently in place and expires in October. 

Amendment 64, which allowed retail marijuana sales in Colorado, gives municipalities the ability to allow or ban retail marijuana sales and marijuana production within their boundaries. 

If the city passes a ban, itwill only affect retail sales and marijuana production. The new ordinance would not prohibit medical marijuana sales. 

James Van Diest, co-owner of one of Littleton’s four medical marijuana dispensaries The Hemp Center, said he was disappointed the city was moving toward a permanent ban. 

“I’m disappointed that the voters of Littleton voted for Amendment 64, the voters voted overwhelmingly for the tax on marijuana, and now they’re not reaping the rewards of regulation and taxation. And there’s still going to be marijuana in Littleton,” Van Diest said. 

A 3-percent city sales tax on retail marijuana sales passed with 64 percent of the vote in 2013. At the time, Littleton estimated a tax on retail marijuana sales would generate about $120,000 a year. 

Van Diest said his store has had 40 to 50 calls, and about 10 people a day come to the store asking about retail sales. Those potential customers go instead to Denver to buy retail marijuana, and the loss of sales revenue may mean his shop will eventually have to close.

 “Let those of us who’ve been professional in how we conduct business and pay taxes, let us compete with Denver,” Van Diest said. “We’d like a straight-up playing field with the Denver dispensaries.”

 

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.