Mayor Marc Williams and other city council members said the decision to place a permanent ban on recreational marijuana sales in Arvada was an easy one.
In a packed chambers at a March 17 meeting, council members listened to more than an hour of public comments that were largely in favor of a ban before unanimously voting to keep recreational marijuana shops and grow operations out of the city of Arvada.
“My thought process was, we voted not to allow marijuana, which may have some medical purpose, so why in the heck would we even think about retail sales?” Williams asked.
A temporary moratorium on recreational sales that had been in place since March 2013 was set to expire this month, and council members said they had received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls that overwhelmingly supported a permanent ban on pot shops.
“The only thing that came close on the number of e-mails I received was Walmart, and that was somewhat balanced,” Williams said. “Out of 300 hundred e-mails, I think one was against a ban.”
Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and older to possess an ounce or less of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use, was approved at November 2012 ballot boxes 53-47 percent in Arvada, which roughly mirrored state numbers.
In spite of a majority of Arvada citizens approving Amendment 64, council members said they were still following the will of the people because the amendment allows for cities to decide the fate of retail marijuana operations in the city.
“Someone who objects and says we’re not following the wishes of voters, I’d say, ‘Hey, I am.’ The voters also said by the exact same vote that gave authority to sell at the retail level also gave cities the option of banning and prohibition,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mark McGoff.
After a string of residents spoke in favor of the ban — mentioning everything from high school students smoking marijuana out of vaporizing pens in the classroom to increased crime — Alicia Svaldi, a business owner, landlord and 25-year Arvada resident, was one of three people that spoke against a ban.
She said retail marijuana is “the next gold rush of Colorado” and implored council to consider how many jobs and business opportunities could be created by allowing retail and grow operations in the city.
“We employ, work hard, we stick with it,” Svaldi said. “This business is no different. There are policy guidelines and processes. There are more laws to this endeavour than any other endeavor in Colorado.”
In a presentation before public comment, city manager Mark Deven laid out the reasons why city staff was recommending a ban. At the top of the list was the fact marijuana remains illegal at the federal level.
“While there is no hard evidence of negative social, economic, health or safety impacts, the staff recommendation reflects concerns that there is a high likelihood that there will be negative impacts if recreational marijuana businesses were allowed to operate in Arvada,” Deven said.
Other reasons included problems around driving while under the influence, financial concerns, Arvada’s image, compliance and enforcement issues and uncertainty about whether or not marijuana is a revenue generator.
Austin Briggs: 303-954-1729, firstname.lastname@example.org