Pot shops likely on hold in Littleton

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Anyone itching to capitalize on pot in Littleton is going to have to wait to scratch.

City council on Feb.19 passed on first reading a temporary moratorium on marijuana establishments, effective until Oct. 1 — the date by which state law allows municipalities to adopt regulations if the state fails to come up with its own.

Councilor Jerry Valdes cast the only no vote, worried about usurping the rights of the voters who passed Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana for adults, in small amounts, for recreational use.

“Did we put a moratorium on alcohol when it was being discussed it was going to be more available?” he asked. “For some reason, I think just because it’s marijuana, we’re reacting this way.”

Councilor Jim Taylor agreed in principle.

“I think marijuana ought to be legalized and then tax the hell out of it,” he said.

But he’s concerned about pot clubs, where people could gather and smoke their personal stashes together for the price of admission. Operators argue those aren’t subject to regulation, but that hasn’t yet been tested.

“This gives us some time to do what the voters were looking for and not do some things the voters were not looking for,” said Councilor Phil Cernanec.

Kristen Schledorn, deputy city attorney, said staff needs more time to study the issue without having to deal with an onslaught of applications.

Councilors vividly remember what happened when they tried to get ahead of medical-marijuana dispensaries. They’re still in a legal battle with CannaMart, an establishment at Broadway and Arapahoe Road that remains open despite being denied a license in 2010.

“We were way ahead of the game on medical marijuana, and then got surprised,” said Councilor Peggy Cole.

Council had limited the number of dispensaries in city limits to four. At the time, there was disagreement between the licensing authority and the city manager as to which four were operational first. City Clerk Wendy Heffner wrote to CannaMart owners that they were, but the licensing authority ruled they were last. CannaMart sued, and the case is still pending.

Mayor Debbie Brinkman noted confusion about the new law is standard, with governments at all levels trying to figure out how to proceed.

“It’s our responsibility to protect the community from this type of poor legislation,” she said.

On the same night, Columbine Valley’s town board unanimously passed a ban on all marijuana facilities and limited growing it to locked areas.

There will be public hearings on second reading, March 5 in Littleton, March 19 in Columbine Valley.