As Boulder heads toward a possible moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses until 2014, medical dispensaries are hoping the city won't take too long to decide how it will regulate the retail pot industry.
A majority of City Council members late Tuesday night favored a temporary ban on recreational marijuana businesses until sometime next year to give officials time to incorporate whatever rules the state adopts and to consider what changes Boulder should make to its rules as the pot trade moves away from the medical model.
The council members, saying they don't want to rush into new regulations, asked the city staff to return this spring with a moratorium proposal.
Boulder attorney Jeff Gard, who represents several marijuana businesses, said he appreciates the City Council wanting to take a deeper look at the rules around recreational marijuana. But business owners need to know whether they'll be able to convert from a medical model to a recreational one.
"Businesses need to know if Boulder is in or is Boulder out," Gard said. "That would reassure everyone that the marijuana business will continue even if the medical model becomes a lame duck."
The City Council unanimously adopted two new ordinances -- one amending the existing medical marijuana ordinance to comply with Amendment 64 and the other creating a municipal minor in possession charge similar to that for alcohol.
But they passed up an opportunity to vote on draft regulations for recreational pot businesses and instead asked the city staff to craft the moratorium proposal. They could not agree on how long the moratorium should extend.
Amendment 64 gives the state until July 1 to develop regulations and until Oct. 1 to start accepting applications. The state must issue licenses by Jan. 1, 2014.
City Councilman Macon Cowles said most medical marijuana businesses want the city to allow recreational or adult-use marijuana businesses as soon as possible, so they can transition to the new model.
Gard said the business owners he represents have no problem with a delay if it is short. The city's medical marijuana ordinances, which were adopted before the state developed its rules, conflicted on many points and made compliance challenging at times.
The draft ordinance that the City Council discussed Tuesday would keep most of the regulations and licensing requirements developed for the medical marijuana industry.
It would place strict limits on where people could smoke marijuana. Even an enclosed backyard would be considered a public place for purposes of enforcement.
Councilwoman Suzy Ageton said she would expect significant pushback from the community if the city does not allow smoking in private yards.
The ordinance would ban smoking pot in any public place and impose a limit of six plants in a single dwelling unit, regardless of how many adults live there.
Under the medical marijuana model, businesses are limited by the number of registered patients they have. Recreational pot businesses would not have that limit.
Officials proposed creating limits on the size of grow operations and limiting owners to just one facility.
The draft ordinance would set the limit at 500 plants, but dispensary and grow operation managers told the City Council that many medical grows have more than 500 plants now. They said it would make more sense to limit operations by square footage.
Dispensary owners told the council they have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their businesses, and their main concern is that they have a way to transition to a recreational model without losing that investment.
Resident Sat Nam Singh Bedi said the prospect of drug-related tourism could change Boulder's reputation, while Carolyn Carlat said she's concerned about the community impact of more pot shops and growing operations.
Carlat said she has chemical sensitivity and already cannot live in either of her homes due, in part, to odors from marijuana.
A majority of council members opposed allowing smoking in Amsterdam-style "coffee shops" or pot clubs, but Councilman George Karakehian raised the question of where the pot tourists who are expected to come to Colorado will smoke, if they can't smoke in public, in hotel rooms or in commercial establishments.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com. ___