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City advances paraphernalia restrictions, pot tourism numbers come in, and more 

CannaBiz

What's that smell? Paranoia?

On its first reading last week, Colorado Springs City Council backed an ordinance that would deliver municipal penalties to anyone younger than 18 in possession of marijuana paraphernalia, with Helen Collins and Bill Murray opposing. As defined, "paraphernalia" extends beyond pipes and vape pens to include a wide range of items, from scales to plastic bags — anything that smells like or tests positive for marijuana. To keep garden tools from qualifying as paraphernalia, Councilor Andy Pico proposed removing references to anything used in "cultivating, growing, harvesting or composting" marijuana, and Council agreed.

The goal with this ordinance is to make prosecuting marijuana crimes a higher priority, in contrast to the state's decision to focus its resources elsewhere.

Colorado has laws that prevent non-MMJ patients younger than 21 from possessing paraphernalia, and city police can arrest them for prosecution in state court. But the state can only levy fines of up to $200, or up to $100 for first offenders.

Should the ordinance pass a second reading in January, municipal judges could levy fines up to $500 for a first offense. And someone prosecuted under this proposed ordinance could also be prosecuted separately under the state law.

Come for the pot, stay for ...

The numbers have it: Tourists are intrigued by our pot.

According to The Denver Post, Strategic Marketing and Research Insights (SMARI) polled 3,254 potential tourists in major cities. Ten percent had visited Colorado between April and September, and of those, 49 percent said our marijuana laws had influenced their plans to visit. Just 8 percent, however, said they visited a dispensary while here.

"We can see that it's still not a large percentage in terms of what people are doing, but it's become more of a motivator for those who want to do it," SMARI's Denise Miller tells the Post.

Of the larger pool of potential tourists, 20 percent said marijuana laws would make them more likely to visit, whereas 15 percent said it would make them less likely. The remaining 65 percent would not be swayed either way.

click to enlarge District 2 Councilmember Larry Bagley is chairing the MMJ task force. - KIRK WOUNDY
  • Kirk Woundy
  • District 2 Councilmember Larry Bagley is chairing the MMJ task force.

A-Tisket, A-Task force

At the first meeting of the city's MMJ task force, neither officials nor members focused on zoning for the city's various dispensaries, cultivation businesses, edibles kitchens and concentration labs — the very businesses affected by the MMJ-moratorium ordinance that mandated the task force's creation. Rather, they discussed abuses of the private caregiver system.

An MMJ patient is allowed to grow a certain number of plants — usually six, though a doctor can permit up to 99 — or to sign an agreement with a caregiver who will grow and process those plants. Caregivers may grow for up to five patients, plus themselves, but cannot grow more than 36 plants in one house.

At the meeting, Colorado Springs Police Sgt. Roger Vargason claimed the city has little power to enforce the limit other than an educational "knock and talk." In truth, it can levy reinspection fines, civil action or criminal prosecution for continued zoning violations.

Despite its dubious relevance, task force chair and Councilmember Larry Bagley says the moratorium is still justified, adding, "We're not making the assumption that something needs to be changed, we've just been tasked to look at [the situation]."

Notably, the original moratorium proposal did not create a task force — that was added by amendment. At least industry members can relax a little, as it appears the heavily regulated industry won't bear the brunt of task force scrutiny.

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