City pot rules take shape

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In an effort to slow the creep of commercial pot within Centennial, city officials took a stab at shaping how it wants to deal with budding new industry created by Colorado’s controversial Amendment 64.

On May 6, Ordinance 2013-O-10 passed unanimously, enacting a year-long, citywide moratorium on commercial marijuana cultivation facilities.

The new ordinance also regulates the manner in which marijuana may be grown for personal use, prohibits the use of marijuana on city-owned or city-leased property, and prohibits marijuana enterprises from operating within the city.

The moratorium will take effect Sept. 30 and, according to City Attorney Robert Widner, would only suspend the application and processing of business permits.

However, council raised concerns that some businesses, which might not require a permit to locate within the city, may push the issue by saying the moratorium does not apply to them.

“An example would be this new wave of vending machines that sells marijuana,” he said. “They advocate that they don’t need a city permit since the city does not regulate the location of vending machines.”

Widner said in response to that, the city added a catch-all phrase to the ordinance that states any business that does not require a permit will be prohibited.

“We did that just as a place-holder,” explained Widner.

Motivation for the moratorium stems from the city’s concerns that unclear issues with the state’s regulatory scheme could dump responsibility into the lap of local municipalities.

Historically councilmembers, as well as Mayor Cathy Noon herself, have questioned the outright ban, favoring a lengthy moratorium and adopting a wait-and-see approach.

The 12-month moratorium buys the city time to research and formalize any plans it might have to put the issue on the ballot in 2014.

Widner said the city is ahead of the curve with a strong existing medical marijuana ordinance, upon which the recreational use ordinance is directly modeled.

Amendment 64 permits a locality, such as Centennial, to prohibit the operation of marijuana growing facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities or retail marijuana stores through the enactment of an ordinance.

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