LAKEWOOD — After hearing almost three hours of emotional public comment Monday night, Lakewood City Council voted 7-4 to let voters decide in November whether to allow recreational marijuana stores in the city.
Council also voted to ban marijuana cultivation, testing, manufacturing, hash-oil production and smoking clubs in Colorado’s fifth-largest city.
A proposed amendment by Ward 5 Councilwoman Karen Harrison would have added recreational stores to the ban, but it was shot down on a 6-5 vote.
In a room packed with opponents of any retail marijuana operations, Ward 1 Councilwoman Ramey Johnson warned that marijuana is a $1 billion a year industry and the “gates of hell will open” with outside money influencing Lakewood voters on the November ballot question.
Lakewood voters approved Amendment 64, which legalized marijuana possession and allowed for retail sales, 60-40 in 2012.
Ward 1 Councilwoman Karen Kellen was the most vocal proponent of allowing retail stores in the city. She said the will of the voters was clear and the so-called “war on drugs” is a failed policy.
One of the most vocal opponents of marijuana operations in the city is Ward 4 Councilman David Wiechman.
After listening to hours of public comment from people worried about declining property values, the safety of kids and the reputation of Lakewood, Wiechman said he was convinced the city would “lose money hand over foot” dealing with the impacts of marijuana.
Mayor Bob Murphy said he voted “no” on Amendment 64.
He supported the November ballot question and said it would answer once and for all the will of the voters: Were they voting strictly for recreational use with no desire for retail stores? Or were they saying “yes” to both?
“All we’re doing is asking voters, and that’s democracy,” Murphy said. “And in my opinion, that’s what we were elected to do. I think it’s our duty to clarify the issue with voters.”
Nate Bohlen said he had plans to open a retail marijuana store that would have been tied into a large cultivation facility and state-of-the-art testing lab in Lakewood.
After the vote that banned the five proposed marijuana operations in the city, and with the fate of retail stores up in the air, he said the desire to operate in Lakewood is diminished.
“We’ll just find somewhere else that will welcome our business,” Bohlen said.
Amendment 64 allowed local governments to set their own rules for recreational marijuana businesses, including banning them entirely within their borders.
In Jefferson County, Wheat Ridge, Mountain View and Edgewater have voted to permit pot shops; Lakewood allows medical marijuana dispensaries but no longer issues permits for new locations.
Denver has retail operations and Aurora is putting rules in place to allow stores. Colorado Springs has a ban.
Austin Briggs: 303-954-1729, email@example.com