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Marijuana 'gifting,' dispensary ordinances pass unanimously 

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Three local ordinances recommended by Colorado Springs' medical marijuana working group passed City Council last week, all unanimously. They need another vote and Mayor John Suthers' signature before becoming law.

The first would place a cumulative cap on licensed medical marijuana locations — 212 distinct locations in the city where any combination of medical marijuana center, cultivation facility or infused product manufacturing facility could exist. The number was determined based on existing licenses and locations, which have been under a moratorium set to expire May 25.

The ordinance provides for a decrease in the cumulative cap over time, because surrendered or expired licenses would not be available to a new grantee, and the ordinance would require businesses planning to relocate to move all of their licenses to the new spot or forfeit any remaining.

Industry leaders have viewed the ordinance as a protection for existing businesses, at the expense of anyone trying to open a new shop.

At the hearing, Jaymen Johnson, speaking as Speak Easy Vape Lounge owner and cannabis advisor for Together for Colorado Springs political action committee, stated that, "This has got to be one of the best marijuana ordinances and compromises I have seen come from the city to date."

(Disclosure: John Weiss, Indy chair and owner, is a founder of and sits on the board for Together for Colorado Springs.)

Johnson also commended the city for following due process, and showing compromise and reason, saying, "My hope is that this is a glimpse into future dealings with the city and may be a more amicable and cooperative effort by the cannabis community and the city to find the solutions to any upcoming problems in the future."

The working group tabled some issues for future discussion, according to Councilor Larry Bagley, including hardship exemptions and testing facility licensing.

The other two ordinances Council approved both go after marijuana "gifting," which is a practice whereby a head shop or some other business without proper licensing might sell a lighter for $30 but include an eighth of weed as a "gift" to the customer.

One of the ordinances creates a section of city code pertaining to the unlawful transfer of marijuana. Namely, it makes it unlawful for a business to "gift" marijuana or marijuana concentrates at no cost or as remuneration.

The other makes it an explicit violation of zoning code to "utilize or permit to be utilized any property" to conduct unlawful retail marijuana transactions.

Industry insiders expect the gifting law to impact only a few head shops — not so much cannabis consumption clubs, which are being threatened by other city and state laws.

These three ordinances will get a second reading at Council's March 28 regular meeting. According to City Clerk Sarah Johnson, "If [they] passed unchanged on second reading and the normal signing and publication process is followed, they will be effective April 11."

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