Marijuana advocates unhappy with the state's progress toward implementing Amendment 64 are pursuing passage of a local ordinance in Nederland that would make the mountain town the first in Colorado to set up a recreational marijuana industry -- well in advance of pending statewide regulations.
Yet Mayor Joe Gierlach dismisses the group's efforts, saying the ordinance has been drafted by people who don't understand the careful assessment and planning processes town officials soon will undertake to set up marijuana businesses regulations that make sense for Nederland.
An Amendment 64 "shadow task force," made up of advocates who are monitoring the governor-appointed task force assembled to make legal recommendations for the establishment of the state's new recreational marijuana businesses, recently brought its ordinance to Nederland Town Clerk Teresa Myers.
Rico Colibri, who said he moved to Nederland in January, is a member of the group and helped draft the proposed "Marijuana Establishment Regulation Ordinance."
The slow progress the governor's task force is making in establishing statewide regulations for the industry -- which many expect may not be finalized until 2014 -- demonstrates it's not ready to give voters what they asked for -- which is to have marijuana regulated like alcohol, Colibri said Friday.
He said Nederland, which has a record of being marijuana-friendly as demonstrated by the 2010 passage of a ballot issue that eliminated municipal pot penalties, is a prime place to show Colorado is ready for legal pot.
"Amendment 64 was a message to D.C. -- that is what they said during the campaign -- and our ordinance is a message to the General Assembly," Colibri said.
One of the issues driving the ordinance is a desire to push out black market distributors. As Colibri points out, it is now legal for adults 21 and older in Colorado to obtain up to an ounce of marijuana and use it in their homes, but without regulated businesses, many marijuana purchases are still supporting criminals.
"Where does it come from? The magical marijuana fairy?" Colibri said. "That would be great, but they don't exist. What does exist is sophisticated drug cartels. Nederland is a small town that could use the tax revenue and we'd like to set an example the state could take notice of."
'Measured and smart process'
The ordinance as drafted would create separate licenses for cultivators, manufacturers of marijuana products, and retailers, and would clear the way for Amsterdam-style coffee shops, or marijuana "brew pubs," Colibri said, where production, sale and consumption could legally take place under the same roof.
Once the ordinance language is verified, proponents will set out to collect 420 signatures from registered Nederland voters. Besides the number's obvious pro-marijuana connotation, Colibri said that in a town where a combined 375 votes were cast in last spring's mayoral election, the number would demonstrate strong support and encourage the Board of Trustees to adopt it without putting it on the ballot for the next election.
Town Administrator Alisha Reis on Friday confirmed that city staff is working with Colibri and his group on the ordinance, but has not yet made it available to the trustees because it has not yet cleared the town's administrative process.
"We're doing everything to move things along, but we have to comply with state law, which means we have to be very detailed in our processing," said Reis, who noted the ordinance is 20 pages long. "We just want to make sure that we have a measured and smart process for regulations because we recognize we are a small town with very limited resources."
'Sensible way that makes sense'
Mayor Gierlach referred to the ordinance as "premature" and said that while Colibri may recently have moved to Nederland, he is clearly not familiar with the local planning process, which involves a healthy dose of resident input.
"We don't even build a sidewalk in our town without consulting our people," Gierlach said. "We're moving forward with our code revisions and we're going to use the Nederland planning process and that is what is best for our citizens."
Gierlach said he has read a bit about the proposed ordinance, but is concerned it does not do enough to address potential zoning issues that may arise. In response to the black market concerns raised by the ordinance, the mayor notes that many Nederland residents grow their own marijuana, another local practice he feels may be negatively impacted by the ordinance.
The town has a public meeting scheduled for Feb. 26 during which the town attorney will give an update on the implications of what is taking place at the state level, Gierlach said, and a local implementation task force will be seated.
From there, the mayor said, additional meetings with the town's advisory boards will be scheduled and sustainability criteria will be applied to any new regulations.
"Until we can revise our codes in a very sensible way that makes sense for the community, who knows?" Gierlach said. "I don't think people even want Rico (Colibri ) to write our local code."
Contact Camera Staff Writer Joe Rubino at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ___
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