COLO. SPGS. – El Paso County Commissioners took the first step in bucking Amendment 64 this week. With the exception of Commissioner Peggy Littleton, the board gave the initial nod to an ordinance that would ban marijuana retail stores and cannabis cultivating, testing and product manufacturing facilities in unincorporated areas of the county.
“I promised my constituents that I would collect and study data and documents to make a well informed decision,” said Littleton. “How can we forbid and prohibit something that we don’t even know what the questions are yet, much less the answers?”
El Paso county commissioners voted 4-1 to ban retail marijuana at the ordinance’s first hearing on Tuesday – less than 24 hours after the first meeting of Hickenlooper’s 24-member task force.
The county’s proposed ordinance is nearly identical to the Douglas County ban slated to become effective this month.
Opponents of El Paso County’s ordinance agreed with Littleton and urged the commissioners to wait until after Governor John Hickenlooper’s task force has concluded its analysis and recommendations on how to implement Amendment 64.
Commissioner Dennis Hisey insisted that the board needed to take action immediately to ban retail marijuana.
Actually, the state has until July 2013 to adopt regulations to implement Amendment 64, and local governments have until October 2013 to set regulations.
Littleton said the rush to judgment is a result of commissioners claiming they have a duty to stand up for those constituents in the county that rejected Amendment 64. But, Amendment 64 actually passed in El Paso county by 10 votes – the official result is 141,696 for to 141,686 against.
Critics argue that if the El Paso Commissioners can use that reasoning to thwart the state-approved measure, perhaps Boulder County Commissioners could pass an ordinance legalizing same-sex marriages. In 2006, Boulder County voted 77,985 – 39,083 against Amendment 43 that defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
The commissioners won’t vote on the ordinance to ban retail marijuana until January.
The Colorado Springs City Council has decided not to take any action until after the state’s regulations have been adopted.
In Douglas County, Parker passed a retail marijuana ban; Castle Rock will consider an ordinance in January. And in El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs and other townships have not yet taken any action.
If each jurisdiction adopts different laws, Littleton said that too poses problems. “I’d like to see a regional approach to this,” she said. “We need to make it consistent.”
The other big question unanswered is what, if any, action the federal government will take given that marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
These issues will likely surface during the meetings of the governor’s task force on marijuana which are open to the public and allow comments. The meetings will be held from1 – 5 p.m.at the Department of Revenue Gaming Conference Room,17301 W. Colfax Ave., Suite 135in Golden on Monday, Jan. 7, and Tuesdays, Jan. 22, Feb. 5, Feb. 19 and Feb. 28.