Our view: What were you smokin’?
Steamboat Springs City Council members voted on two ordinances pertaining to local marijuana businesses last Tuesday — one law establishes a merit-based application system for new marijuana licenses and the second requires existing dispensaries, as well as any new dispensaries that might be approved in the future, to source half of their products from within the city limits.
When we read the list of nine factors the council will be considering if it decides to allow additional marijuana dispensaries to open up in town, we were a bit flabbergasted. This system seems over-complicated and somewhat subjective, and it adds a new layer of bureaucracy and, even more objectionable, politics onto a local industry that already complies with extensive state regulations.
To review, the council would evaluate the following factors when considering whether or not to approve a new marijuana license:
- Experience operating a licensed marijuana business in Colorado
- Impact on the neighborhood, the community and the environment
- Convenience of the proposed location to the residents of the city
- Compatibility with the surrounding properties
- Diversity of retail choices
- Business plan evaluation
- Ability to operate an effective and lawful analogous business in the city
- Quality and detail of the proposed security plan, business plan, community outreach plan and other application materials
- Potential for crime in the proposed location
This list seems exhaustingly long, and it also begs many questions, like: Who has the expertise to conduct the business plan evaluation and at what cost? And who will perform environmental, business and community impact studies? We also don’t understand the two questions that deal with safety and crime because, to our knowledge, the opening of recreational marijuana shops five years ago resulted in almost zero associated criminal activity.
It seems to us as if the council is trying to either fix something that isn’t broken or expand its authority well beyond its responsibilities as a representative body. As we stated in a previous editorial, the city has been successful in navigating the unknowns of a fledging recreational marijuana industry by limiting licenses to three, and we don’t think they should be in a hurry to rock the boat. We also aren’t aware of a huge community push to increase the number of retail marijuana businesses in the city, so we’re not sure where the motivation to change city laws regulating the sale of marijuana is coming from.
We also believe the requirement that 50% of product sold at local marijuana dispensaries be sourced within the city limits, coupled with the merit-based evaluation, will actually serve to make Steamboat less attractive to those wanting to open up a new dispensary in town, if and when such expansion makes sense.
We know that the existing three shops have invested in a local content capability, but we see this additional requirement for new shops as a backdoor way to limit new competition. With that in mind, these new laws seem exceptionally heavy-handed and misguided. On one hand, the council seems to be opening its arms to industry expansion but then closing the door through all of these requirements.
At issue: Steamboat Springs City Council passed an ordinance last week that will create a merit-based system for approving new marijuana licenses.
Our View: The system is too complicated and arbitrary and unnecessarily puts council members in the business of policing the local marijuana industry.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Robin Stone, community representative
- Steve Hofman, community representative
We also have heard some council members say they want marijuana to be regulated like alcohol, and these regulations ensure the opposite. We also believe terms like “convenience” and “compatability” could easily open the city up to litigation by those who don’t want to live near a dispensary.
Our previous position that it’s too early to change existing regulations on the local marijuana industry stands. It seems like the status quo is humming along nicely — no big crime issues, increased sales tax revenue for the city and dispensaries located outside of downtown, the mountain area and walkable neighborhoods.
In our opinion, new regulations passed by council aren’t solving anything; they’re only creating a bureaucratic nightmare and ensuring that city government and elected officials become micro managers of the local marijuana industry.
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