Craig City Council officially passes voter-approved marijuana ordinance
In a split vote with one council seat still vacant, Craig City Council passed its first-ever recreational marijuana ordinance Tuesday night.
The city has been working on their marijuana ordinance for months in anticipation of voters going to the polls earlier this month. The ordinance would include a 4% variable tax on recreational sales inside city limits that would go to the Craig branch of the library and the Museum of Northwest Colorado for five years, though many on council believe the tax should begin at zero to remain competitive with other cities.
The ordinance would also allow council the discretion to revoke an establishment’s recreational dispensary license if that dispensary commits a single identification infraction, like those found during enforcement sting operations conducted across the state by Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), and caps the number of recreational marijuana licenses to be used by dispensaries at three.
At their regular council meeting Tuesday night, Nov. 26, City Attorney Sherman Romney said they had made a few changes to language in the ordinance to give city staff more leeway when it comes to receiving applications and approving those for recreational licenses.
“So, we still had a deadline to start receiving applications. That is the Dec. 15 deadline. We moved that to Jan. 2,” Romney said. “There was another deadline for Feb. 1 to start awarding those, but we felt that was arbitrary and needed to based on when we were actually ready to do that.”
Mayor Jarrod Ogden wanted to put things into perspective.
“So we have a hard deadline for starting to receive applications, we just don’t have an actual date for when we’ll be able to hand out those licenses?” Ogden asked.
“Correct,” replied City Clerk Liz White, whose staff will ultimately process and approve or deny whatever applications are received.
Ogden was sure to commend city staff for their work on an ordinance that might’ve been scrapped by voters.
“Once again, I will commend staff,” Ogden said. “This was quite an undertaking. For those of you who maybe aren’t aware and those of you who’ve been through all this with us, we were essentially trying to create an ordinance for something we’ve never treaded before and something we weren’t even sure was going to pass.”
Within moments of introducing the ordinance for it’s ‘first reading’ under the city charter, Councilwoman Andrea Camp motioned to pass it as written. Camp’s motion was seconded by Councilman Steve Mazzuca.
Before a vote was called, Councilman Chris Nichols wanted to make his voice heard on the issue of requiring local recreational marijuana dispensaries to grow a percentage of their products here in Craig. Nichols hopes by requiring recreational dispensaries to purchase locally grown marijuana, more grow operations and other marijuana-related businesses will spring up and invest in retrofitting Craig’s empty business spaces. Craig could benefit from such a marijuana boom as electricians, plumbers for irrigation systems, HVAC technicians for climate control systems inside grow operations, and other tradesman spend their money in town at hotels, grocery stores, restaurants, and other small businesses in Craig. Nichols mentioned he wants to avoid allowing some marijuana-related businesses to secure ‘grandfathered’ status if council changes the locally-grown requirement in the future.
“It has been a lot of work by staff and council trying to come up with an ordinance that worked and trying to find common ground,” Nichols explained. “I’m in favor of the ordinance as written, but you all know where I stand. I don’t care if we’re the second community in the state to require cultivation locally. I think it will be good for economic development and that’s why we looked at legalizing recreational marijuana to begin with. I’ll be voting no on that premise solely.”
Craig would be the second municipality in the state ever to make such a requirement, as explained by the Craig Apothecary’s Shaun Hadley earlier in Tuesday’s meeting.
“No other jurisdiction outside of Steamboat maintains this requirement,” Hadley said.
Hadley explained the original purpose for a locally-grown requirement was to tame Colorado’s early cannabis market.
“It was never meant as a way to create jobs or force these people to go out and spend a bunch of money,” Hadley told council on Tuesday of the requirement which was only for medicinal marijuana shops at the time. “It was mostly built because at that time, cannabis was allowed to come in from across the states. It was very much the wild, wild west. So, they tried to combat that by establishing the 70/30 rule. So, it existed up until June 30, of 2018 when it dropped to a 50/50 rule. Then in July 1, 2019, it went away completely. So, it’s not even a requirement anymore.”
Council also hinted they weren’t in total agreement on capping the number of recreational marijuana licenses to three.
“I’ve had a lot of people come to me. They knew I’m against this, but they’ve asked me why we’d put a limit on it,” said Councilman Tony Bohrer. “Let business be business and the strong will survive. That’s just the way business is in America.”
Nichols explained the original purpose of the cap.
“I think originally the intention the cap was learn to crawl before you walk so we could, from a law enforcement and vetting and inspecting these facilities perspective, licensing them, working out the problems were going to have since this is brand new, then within a year or another period of time that I’m not sure what that is, then we open things up for more licenses,” Nichols said. “But, I think we already have potential for four. I wouldn’t be opposed to raising the cap, but I still want to see a cap. Again, learn to crawl before you walk.”
Bohrer still wants to remove the cap now instead of later.
“To me, if we’re going to remove the cap, we might as well remove it at the beginning instead of hoping they come in a few years,” Bohrer said.
Mayor Ogden asked Camp if she’d be willing to amend her motion. She wasn’t.
“I’d like to move forward with this motion and vote and go from there,” Camp said.
Councilwoman Camp’s motion passed with Nichols and Bohrer voting no. Councilors Paul James, Steve Mazzuca, Andrea Camp, and Mayor Ogden voted yes.