Pubdate: Thu, 05 Nov 2015
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2015 Boulder Weekly
Author: Leland Rucker
Column: Weed Between the Lines


What a long, strange trip it's become, even though it's just been a 
little more than a month.

Boulder City Council decided to take a look at its cannabis 
regulations, and the first of three readings took place Sept. 30. For 
the most part, municipalities and counties in Colorado that allow 
cannabis sales adopted the state regulations written after the 
passage of Amendment 64. For whatever reasons, the City of Boulder 
came up with its own complex set of rules, which often differ from 
the state's. Confusion over the differences was at least one reason 
to prompt the reconsideration.

On Oct. 8, two local dispensaries, The Farm and Terrapin Station, 
were cited by City Code Enforcement Officer Beverly Bookout, who had 
been provided photos of the two dispensaries' booths as part of their 
sponsorship of the Boulder Pridefest event in September. The 
citations quoted Boulder code 6-16-8-D (D), which bans advertising 
which is purely incidental to sponsorship of a charitable event by a 
recreational marijuana center or a recreational marijuana-infused 
products manufacturer.

The tickets are just another example of the kind of inconsistent 
enforcement cannabis business owners have been trying to point out. 
Chris Woods, owner of Terrapin Station and Jan Cole of The Farm, both 
local residents who have been operating here for years, argue that 
they are legal local businesses that aren't allowed to sponsor 
community events, support nonprofits or participate in happenings 
that are open to the rest of the community.

"I am outraged that we have been cited for noncompliance with the 
City's ordinance for publicly showing support for the LGBT community 
at an event celebrating social equality," Woods wrote in an angry 
letter to the council.

City Attorney Tom Carr responded by explaining that the rules were 
written according to Council's wishes. "Several parents had stated 
that they wanted to be able to enjoy festivals and events, and move 
around Boulder with their children without having to explain all the 
marijuana issues. The advertising limitations were Council's response."

Attorneys Brian Vicente and Christian Sederberg, who helped write 
Amendment 64, weighed in. "State law contains a thorough and 
comprehensive definition of advertising that was painstakingly 
drafted to narrowly tailor the language to what is typically 
considered commercial speech, and thus entitled to more limited free 
speech protections," they wrote in an analysis of city codes sent to 
Council. "By using its own definition, Boulder fails to take 
advantage of the efforts of the Attorney General's Office and 
potentially creates differences in the advertising restrictions 
imposed on Boulder licensees by the state and by the city."

The issue came up again at a cannabis forum Oct. 16 at eTown Hall 
that was attended by 13 candidates, including two sitting Council 
members up for re-election. When The Farm's Cole asked a question 
from the audience about the fairness of the Pridefest citations, 
Councilman Macon Cowles stood up and said that the citations were 
"just wrong," a statement that was met with applause all around.

I attended a press conference last Wednesday afternoon at Terrapin 
Station. Across the street, members of Out Boulder and the cannabis 
industry were protesting the Pridefest citations at the old 
gas-station property. (The media were running after Republican 
candidates up on campus.)

Taylor West of the National Cannabis Industry Association and Ean 
Seeb of Denver Relief talked about the growing industry here and how 
local businesses are working to become part of their communities. 
Rep. Jonathan Singer spoke of how Colorado is at "the edge of the 
tipping point" while signs across the street called for "Equal Rights 
4 Canna-businesses" and motorists honked while making the left turn 
onto Canyon. It was almost as surreal as navigating the "rightsized" 
Folsom a couple months ago.

The third reading of the ordinance comes on Tuesday. Packets were 
unavailable before deadline, but I spoke with Councilwoman Lisa 
Morzel, who said that she was going to push to clarify the 
advertising question at the meeting and hoped there was support among 
other members to get it done.

Some questions brought up on first and second readings have already 
been punted to a stakeholders' group that will come back with 
recommendations next year.

This shouldn't be one of those. Parents have the right to shield 
their kids, but to suggest that City Council should be in the 
business of excluding local businesses from local events because some 
people don't want to talk to their children is among the most 
specious arguments I've ever heard.

Woods intends to file a complaint in federal court on free speech 
grounds if the city goes through with fines for these violations. I 
hope it doesn't come to that. But local cannabis businesses deserve 
to know whether staff and Council are really supporting them or not.

You can hear Leland discuss his most recent column and Colorado 
cannabis issues each Thursday morning on KGNU.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom