Pubdate: Wed, 30 Mar 2016
Source: Colorado Springs Independent (CO)
Column: Cannabiz
Copyright: 2016 Colorado Springs Independent
Author: Nat Stein


A marathon session at City Hall on March 22 featured Council 
dissenters of all stripes: those who pushed back against Councilor 
Andy Pico's resolution opposing refugee resettlement; those with a 
petition demanding repeal of the recently enacted Pedestrian Access 
Act; those who bemoaned the proposed land-swap deal with The 
Broadmoor; and finally, those pleading, once again, for Council to 
leave cannabis clubs unshuttered. None of that was resolved except 
for the club issue (but not in the way most urged).

Clubs opened up all over town, even after the six-month moratorium on 
new marijuana business licenses began in September. (The city 
couldn't stop issuing a license that didn't exist.)

Then, earlier this month, the planning commission recommended banning 
the clubs outright. Councilor Don Knight took the ordinance to 
Council, proposing the group prohibit the opening of any new clubs, 
mandate licensure for all clubs that operated prior to the moratorium 
(subject to all sorts of new rules) and force those clubs to close 
doors no later than 2024. That ordinance passed on March 22.

Councilor Bill Murray moved to table the ordinance for six months so 
Council could work with the industry to develop more moderate 
regulations. Council voted 6-3 in favor of adopting Knight's original 
proposal. Councilors Jill Gaebler and Helen Collins joined Murray in 
voting "no."

"We talk about limited government all the time, but limited 
government is not about number of employees, it's about limited 
laws," Murray said. "We're turning democracy into a morality play."

Gaebler said she was skeptical of the public process behind the 
measure - or lack thereof. Collins, on her part, said she didn't 
think a ban would be constitutional.

Knight and Councilor Keith King argued that Council had already 
exercised its right, under Amendment 64, to opt out of the retail 
side of marijuana.

Club owners and goers took their opportunity during public comment to 
try and correct some misconceptions. Ambur Racek, owner of Studio 
A64, insisted that cannabis clubs are benign relative to bars that 
serve alcohol.

"I get off at 1 a.m. in the morning and every time I drive downtown I 
see people outside the bars, stumbling around, causing problems, 
getting into fights. We are peaceful people," she said. "All we want 
is a place to be accepted as human beings. Smoking weed is how we 
choose to relax, and it isn't hurting anyone. It's our right."

Presence Mercier, patron and cousin of a local club owner, took a 
different tack. "Even if you hate pot, that's fine," she said. "But 
we all love money, right? Think of what you'd gain from these clubs."

Jason Warf, lobbyist who represents nearly all of the local clubs, 
pointed out that the Council sought no industry input. "You'll never 
be able to achieve sensible policy unless you include us," he said. 
"The way it stands as of today, a bill at the state level will be out 
next week. I've gone back to the drafters to make sure what you're 
doing here will conflict with what we're doing at the state level."

Activist attorney Robert Corry reminded Council that Amendment 64, 
which he had a hand in drafting, protects the activities in question. 
"In Colorado, adults have the right to associate with each other, 
consume marijuana, cultivate it, distribute it and help others with 
all those things," he said. "That's the supreme law of the land. The 
voters have spoken." And just like other rights that Council members 
swore to uphold, the rights afforded by Amendment 20 and Amendment 64 
are "non-negotiable," Corry said. "That may be difficult for you, but 
that's the reality."

Gaebler asked Corry how other municipalities in the state are dealing 
with cannabis clubs.

"Not a single one has banned them, because they can't," he answered. 
Plus, a city devoid of venues for social consumption creates other 
problems, he explained. "Marijuana will be smoked by adults in 
groups, no matter what you do."

At the end of his testimony, Corry made a show of delivering the city 
attorney a draft lawsuit he intends to file as soon as the mayor 
signs the club ban ordinance. On behalf of nine clubs and 14 
individuals who own or operate clubs, the complaint asks for the 
ordinance to be struck down for violating plaintiffs' right of 
association, freedom of speech and due process under the U.S. 
Constitution as well as their right to life, liberty and the pursuit 
of happiness, religious freedom and right to medical and personal use 
of marijuana under the Colorado Constitution.

Councilor Knight took exception to the claim that Council has no 
right to ban cannabis clubs.

"We will talk about that in district court," Corry said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom