Council swings toward ban on retail pot

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Littleton City Council took a sharp turn on pot about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 4, abruptly changing course from deciding whether to allow retail marijuana sales to deciding on an outright ban.

After the seven-hour meeting that saw the fall of the Broadstone apartment proposal, council had one last task as the crowded chamber emptied — hearing on first reading a proposed ordinance that would have allowed the city’s four existing medical-marijuana dispensaries to sell to the general public.

However, Mayor Debbie Brinkman introduced an amendment to switch the language from allowing retail sales to banning them.

“I don’t think increasing access and making it a part of our community is really what we intend Littleton to be,” said Brinkman.

Mayor Pro Tem Bruce Stahlman and councilors Jim Taylor, Jerry Valdes and Peggy Cole indicated support for the original language during an Aug. 27 study session. But Stahlman reversed course on first reading, saying he wasn’t aware Littleton would be the only south-metro city to allow it, although it came up during the study session.

“We’re surrounded by communities that have said no,” said Councilor Bruce Beckman at the time. “I’m not sure that Littleton wants to stand out when the whole south-metro area has said no.”

“Frankly, that’s causing me to reconsider the whole thing,” Stahlman said Sept. 4.

Cole, Taylor and Valdes pressed to start the process over since the ordinance was substantially changed.

“Let’s have a public hearing,” said Taylor. “If you don’t like what the public says, then you can vote your conscience at that time.”

City Attorney Ken Fellman said that wasn’t necessary since the portion of affected city code wasn’t changing.

“We may have the authority, but it’s just not the proper thing to do,” said Valdes. “We did that a couple weeks ago, and I don’t think it looked good.”

He was referring to council’s decision to send a substantially altered Broadstone project back to the planning board for review rather than voting on the developer’s original proposal, forcing him back to square one in the city review process. Valdes and many citizens thought that’s what should have happened.

The public will be welcome to express opinions on the proposed marijuana ordinance on Sept. 17, when council is set to make a final decision.

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