Colorado Springs faces an “extraordinarily difficult time” dealing with the legalization of marijuana, City Attorney Chris Melcher said Monday — the same day Gov. John Hickenlooper declared Amendment 64 part of the Colorado constitution.
“Many of your questions will not have an answer yet,” Melcher told the City Council during a briefing on Amendment 64, which voters approved in November.
“There is no answer at the state level, the federal level or the local level, and all of us — Denver, Fort Collins, Pueblo, Colorado Springs — all of us are trying to figure out a lot of the questions and a lot of the answers,” he said. “This is going to be an extraordinarily difficult time for the police department, for our city and for our office.”
The amendment allows licensed retail stores to sell marijuana unless prohibited by local governments.
“The city will have the option to regulate that to a certain level or prohibit it altogether,” Kyle Sauer, an attorney for the city, told the council.
The issue can also be decided by voters, but only during a general election in an even numbered year, he said. The earliest that could happen is November 2014.
“The timeline (calls) for regulations to be in place much earlier than that, so if this is taken to a citizen vote, council would also have the opportunity through ordinance to impose a moratorium or a prohibition until that date to prevent retail operations until the citizens can be heard,” Sauer said.
The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners isn’t waiting.
The board will consider an ordinance to ban marijuana retail sales, grow operations and manufacturing operations in unincorporated portions before the end of the year, commission Chairwoman Amy Lathen said. Amendment 64 passed by 10 votes countywide, with precincts in the unincorporated areas voting against the measure.
A couple of City Council members raised concerns about the amendment’s impact on police.
“What are we doing to protect them to make sure they know what they can and can’t do?” asked Councilwoman Angela Dougan, who is married to a police officer.
“We’ll be working very, very closely with our public safety employees and officers,” Melcher said.
Meanwhile, Amendment 64 won’t exonerate anyone charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in the 4th Judicial District because there isn’t anyone, said Lee Richards, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Dan May. The only pending marijuana charges are tied to more serious crimes, such as burglary, Richards said.
Staff writers Bob Stephens and John Schroyer contributed to this report.