Our View: Council should proceed with caution
Editor’s note: This editorial was updated at 6:30 p.m. April 2 to reflect when City Council will consider the ordinance.
The Steamboat Springs Planning Commission voted last week to recommend that Steamboat Springs City Council adopt a new ordinance that would allow more retail pot shops in the city limits, and council members are poised to act upon these recommendations when they will consider the new marijuana ordinance on first reading at their May 7 meeting.
In a shift from previous editorials where we advocated for lifting the city’s three-license limit, we are now encouraging the council to tap the brakes rather than adopt a new ordinance that would allow an unlimited number of licenses and make it possible for pot shops to be located downtown and at the mountain. We believe there’s value in re-evaluating our thinking in light of new information, and now, we find ourselves calling upon the council to proceed cautiously in this arena.
Our reasoning is simple, and it relies in part on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” philosophy. By limiting licenses to three, the city has been successful in controlling the unknowns of a fledgling industry and retaining the upper hand in regulating retail marijuana establishments in the city.
If the many questions surrounding legalized marijuana were answered, we would have remained in favor of lifting limits that interfere with the free market and align with liquor laws, but we don’t think the industry is mature enough to take that chance. Instead, we’d like to see the city stay its course for a few more years with plans to revisit the issue annually as more becomes known about the issue.
Most recently, new studies have linked high-potency marijuana to the risk of psychotic episodes, as reported in the March 21 issue of Steamboat Pilot & Today. Other research has indicated the higher levels of THC in marijuana could also be making the substance more addictive.
Because cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, its effects cannot be adequately studied by American researchers. A 2017 report issued by the National Academy of Medicine concluded “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.”
In particular, we are concerned about the fact that very little research has been conducted on the effect marijuana has on the developing teen brain, and until we fully understand the health risks associated with prolonged marijuana use among all ages of users, we think it’s wise for the city to retain its conservative approach to regulating the local marijuana industry.
We also think this stance mirrors the will of the community. According to a Pilot & Today poll that asked, “Do you believe the city should allow unlimited retail marijuana licenses in Steamboat?,” 53% of respondents marked “no” and 40% indicated “yes.” It seems that many in the Steamboat Springs community like the fact that the town’s pot shops are located in west Steamboat away from walkable neighborhoods and away from Steamboat Resort.
At issue: Steamboat Springs City Council is considering loosening restrictions on retail sales, cultivation and manufacturing of marijuana in the city limits.
Our View: With legalized marijuana still in its infancy, now is not the time to make changes to a city ordinance that has been working.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Robin Stone, community representative
- Steve Hofman, community representative
And even though there haven’t been studies to prove a direct link between marijuana legalization and increased use among teens, we do know that legalization, at the very least, normalizes use of the drug, and limiting young people’s exposure to pot shops by regulating where they can be located is a positive message for the young people of our community.
How our country regulates alcohol and tobacco is based on decades of research and experience, and while we’re routinely opposed to over-regulation, we contend it’s too early to remove more stringent regulations on a substance and an industry that have only been legal in our state for five years.
City leaders enacted the three-license limit and 1,000-foot buffers between marijuana stores and schools, parks and residential neighborhoods to limit community impact and control growth of the local retail marijuana. And with so many unanswered questions still swirling around marijuana, we believe there’s little to gain by loosening restrictions at this time.
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