Local officials face uncertainties with marijuana law

DANIEL J. CHACON AND BOB STEPHENS Updated: November 7, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: November 7, 2012

City officials say it’s too early to know the full ramifications of a ballot measure that legalized marijuana in Colorado on Tuesday.

County officials say they’re leaning toward taking advantage of a provision in Amendment 64 that allows local governments to prohibit retail stores.

And in Manitou Springs, Mayor Marc Snyder plans to research how residents voted on the amendment but said he doesn’t anticipate his city pursuing a ban.

“The voting trend in Manitou would not lead me to believe our people would be for a ban,” Snyder said.

The amendment, which passed with 55 percent of the statewide vote, legalizes small amounts of marijuana and allows it to be treated much like alcohol and sold in retail stores.

None of the five El Paso County commissioners were aware they could ban marijuana retail stores in the unincorporated parts of the county. But four of the five said they like the idea.

Commission Chairwoman Amy Lathen and other commissioners noted that El Paso County voters opposed the amendment by a slim margin: 3,300 votes out of 269,346 cast.

“If we want to be in line with the wishes of voters in the county, I think we should move forward on this,” Lathen said. “I’d absolutely be supportive of banning it.”

Commissioner Peggy Littleton didn’t hesitate to say she’d vote to ban marijuana retail stores.

“It’s illegal federally,” Littleton said. “We already passed a resolution against it, for all the damage that can be done with the sale, distribution or utilization of marijuana.”

The commissioners and City Council passed resolutions against Amendment 64.

Council President Scott Hente said he suspects the measure will create “significant legal issues” for the City Attorney to research.

“I don’t have a clue what the city is going to want to do right now,” Hente said.

“I know the city attorney needs to talk to us sometime in the next month or so about some of the legalities. Is this going to get challenged in the courts? Is that going to affect things? Maybe. I just think there’s too many unknowns right now for me to even guess as to what’s going to happen,” he said.

City Councilman Bernie Herpin said the “full ramifications” are unknown.

“We don’t know how the federal government is going to react since we and Washington state are the first states to make it legal,” he said.

Mayor Steve Bach said he was “deeply concerned” about the law’s ramifications.

“Marijuana is still illegal under federal law and that alone will present complex legal issues,” Bach said in a statement.

“We believe it will result in adding to public safety concerns — such as traffic accidents caused by drivers impaired by drug use — further stressing our overburdened public safety resources,” he said.

County attorney Amy Folsom said her office was aware of the options available for local governments.

“People can still possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants, as long as no more than three are mature,” she said.

RELATED CONTENT

• Suthers on CNN: feds won’t be interested in low-level marijuana possession.

• Passage of Amendment 64 brings more questions than answers.

• Despite Amendment 64, CU-Boulder still plans to snuff 4/20 smoke-out.

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