On Oct. 13, Colorado Springs City Council finalized a six-month freeze on the opening of new cannabis clubs, with only Bill Murray and Helen Collins opposing. The moratorium will expire March 22, 2016, but Council can extend it indefinitely with two readings at public sessions.
Council also passed the first reading of a six-month moratorium stopping land use and zoning permits for any new MMJ businesses, including dispensaries, cultivation businesses and infused-product manufacturers. The measure also would prevent any existing MMJ businesses from moving or expanding during that time. This measure only passed 5 to 4, with Murray, Collins, Tom Strand and President Pro Tem Jill Gaebler opposing. Keith King amended the ordinance to block Council from extending the moratorium.
Don Knight, the District 1 councilor who spearheaded both ordinances, said the current process for licensing an MMJ business does not require public feedback. When some businesses open — bars and liquor stores, for instance — they have to get their neighbors to sign a needs-and-desire petition, approving of the business opening.
But Jason Warf, director of the Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, questioned the need for public feedback, calling it an attack on legitimate business. He noted that Walgreens doesn't need its neighbors' approval to open a new pharmacy.
Further, Murray and others wondered what emergency or crisis justifies a moratorium. Knight kept coming back to two incoming Gas & Grass locations — combination medical marijuana dispensaries and gas stations run by Denver-based Native Roots. But their land use permits were in place before the first iteration of the ordinance was read and delayed (CannaBiz, Sept. 30).
According to statements from Knight, he and Councilor Larry Bagley pursued these ordinances after a constituent took issue with a new cannabis club going into a nearby strip mall, as well as private medical grow operations running in her neighborhood. But the cannabis club ordinance grandfathers in all current clubs as legal, and the city has done nothing to address private medical grows.
Gaebler asked the salient question: "Why put in a moratorium when it doesn't address the true issues?"
In August, Colorado totaled $100.6 million in marijuana sales, counting $59.2 million in recreational sales and $41.4 million in medical sales, according to an Oct. 12 report from Westword.
It's another month of record-breaking sales — indeed, except for May, marijuana sales have grown and broken sales records continuously all year. Based on tax revenue data, El Paso County was responsible for nearly $9 million in medical sales in August.