Councilor Smits Admits Prohibition May Go Against the Tide
MONTROSE – All five members of the Montrose City Council agreed Tuesday evening to declare Montrose one of the first Colorado municipalities to permanently prohibit the retail sale of marijuana.
Council member Bob Nicholson said the "outlaw" of retail sales within the city was a compromise, given a citizen’s right, under new state laws, to legally possess, consume and grow marijuana privately within a person's home.
During a public hearing, supporters and opponents of ordinance 2321 voiced their concerns that marijuana was either harming "young people," or the city was “losing out” on potential revenue generated from a tax on retail sales.
Montrose County resident Ryan Fox said he was in favor of the ban, presenting what he called "up to date" information to the council.
"Marijuana is addictive. It is a drug with no accepted medical use at this time. There is no accepted safe amount in the body. It is still classed as a schedule one drug, which is a controlled substance. A red card or medical card is not a prescription, it is a notice to law enforcement that a person is exempt from prosecution for possession," Fox said. "One out of every six employees, by the end 2013, one out of every six employees will hold a red card.”
City resident Nancy Kelso told the council that a significant percentage of retail sales would go to fund school construction, and that people suffering from diseases like cancer would benefit from buying the drug from a retail setting.
"Retail stores would be a tourist stop, good for the economy," Kelso added.
Fellow city resident Jonathan Phillips agreed.
"We have a potential market where we could bring in tax revenue. And regardless of where you land on the morality of smoking marijuana the fact is there are members of our community who are productive, active members of our community who regularly smoke marijuana for recreational purposes," Phillips said.
Montrose City Attorney Stephen Alcorn told the council that the state decided on a sales tax of 10 percent for retail sales. From that 10 percent, 15 percent would go directly back to the city to help pay for regulation and enforcement.
Alcorn said the Montrose Police Department would need to hire an additional two officers to aid in enforcement and regulation. Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn, also attending Tuesday's meeting, confirmed the need for more staff to enforce retail compliance with state law.
Amendment 64 was drafted to set aside the first $40 million from sales taxes for school construction. Communities that opt out of retail sales of marijuana would not receive these funds for local projects.
Councilor Carol McDermott said she was in favor of the ban because the majority of county voters, 56.7 percent, along with 55.3 percent of city voters, cast ballots last November against Amendment 64, which allows people 21 and older in Colorado to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
Statewide, Amendment 64 passed with 55 percent of the vote.
"What I see is a situation where it is now legal to smoke marijuana in your home; you can grow your own plants and that's up to each individual on how they’re going to do it. But I don't think as a city council we have to promote it any way beyond that," Nicholson said.
Councilor Thomas Smits admitted Montrose was entering a time of prohibition and said history often looks back on those times, such as the prohibition of alcohol from 1919 to 1933, as a period when society is evolving. He said marijuana could become more prevalent in society and could at some point be treated like alcohol.
"Marijuana is coming more and more into our society whether we like it or not," Smits said.
The ordinance also bans marijuana-related paraphernalia including any accessories which aid in the cultivation, manufacture and consumption of the drug.