Craig City Council fires up talks on new recreational marijuana ordinance | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig City Council fires up talks on new recreational marijuana ordinance

A marijuana ordinance for Craig is in the works that could be passed with a ballot question in November asking municipal voters if they want recreational marijuana legalized inside Craig’s city limits.

In a workshop Tuesday, council gathered to discuss a proposed ordinance recently drafted by City Attorney Sherman Romney. Council directed Romney to begin working on the ordinance soon after the election of Paul James, a longtime Craig resident who campaigned and won his council seat on recreational marijuana legalization in Craig.

Early drafts of the proposed marijuana ordinances includes an excise tax not to exceed 5% on wholesale cultivation sales, a 5% sales tax on retail marijuana sales, and ballot language for voters in November.

“I’ve looked at a number of ordinances and this seems like a pretty clear approach,” Romney said.

Craig’s proposed ordinance would require any new marijuana-related business be set back from schools 1,000 feet, and from parks or residences at least 800 feet. It would also make the City of Craig the main local licensing and enforcement authority for marijuana-related businesses — responsible for collecting licensing fees, conducting inspections, and enforcing operational requirements.

Craig Police Department Capt. Bill Leonard attended the workshop and said he has worked with Craig Police Chief Jerry DeLong to provide suggestions based on Steamboat Springs’ ordinance.

“We pulled their ordinance, and quite a bit of what’s in there we agree with,” Leonard said.

Mayor Jarrod Ogden asked Leonard if CPD will need to hire additional officers to deal with a new marijuana ordinance in Craig. Leonard didn’t think the department would need to add personnel right away.

“We don’t think we would have to have that right off,” Leonard said.

In an interview Tuesday, Leonard said there are too many unknowns at this point in the process to know whether CPD would need more staff.

“I don’t know if we will need more staff,” Leonard.

Leonard later clarified that there are too many unknowns at this point in the process to know how the ordinance might affect police numbers.

“I don’t know if we will need more staff,” Leonard.

Several aspects of the ordinance still need to be hammered out, including how many licenses in each of the four areas of marijuana-related business will be allowed in Craig; whether the city will mirror background check and inspection efforts already conducted by the state; whether the city will require a certain percentage of marijuana sold be locally grown; and which business zones will be allowed to house marijuana businesses.

Perhaps the biggest decision yet to come is how council will appropriate any sales or excise taxes agreed to by voters.

“Education and enforcement,” Councilman Chris Nichols said as an opening proposal on how to spend the money. “In my mind, that gives council some discretion.”

While it might be a good idea to appropriate some of the tax dollars if voters agree, Romney hinted those dollars can also be good when unforeseen expenses present themselves.

“Designating of funds from an operational standpoint can create problems for the city in the future,” Romney said.

Romney said getting the ordinance ready before voters actually approve it will save the city plenty of grief if voters give the thumbs-up.

“If we don’t have the ordinance up front, it could really turn into a fistfight after voters approve it,” Romney said.

Councilman Tony Bohrer and others proposed ensuring voters be informed of the ordinance before they vote and are considering mailing out a summary of the ordinance to residents.

“If it’s a one-page deal, we could actually put it in people’s water bills,” Bohrer said.