Budtender Lauren Cowley holds up a bag of pre-rolled joints while helping a customer with a recreational marijuana purchase at Terrapin Care Station's Folsom Street location in Boulder on March 5, 2015. (Jeremy Papasso, Daily Camera)

Boulder taking a more 420-friendly approach to regulating pot industry

Boulder City Council members want to move into a new era in marijuana regulation that is more focused on helping the industry succeed and less about keeping operators under the microscope.

The council unanimously gave initial approval late Tuesday to an ordinance that removes language that talks about “zero tolerance” for violations, allows for an administrative hearing when fines are assessed, allows infused product facilities to get marijuana from outside Boulder and eliminates a deadline to convert from medical to recreational or lose that privilege forever.

The City Council also said Boulder should set up a working group with industry representatives, public health officials, community members and regulators to work on additional changes to local regulations.

City Attorney Tom Carr said he will always first approach the issue of marijuana from a regulatory and legal framework, but it may be time for the city’s ordinances to evolve now that most of the operators have shown themselves to be compliant.

The council supported that approach.

“It’s time to open a new chapter and be looking to the health of the industry,” Councilwoman Suzanne Jones said.

Many provisions in the code were adopted in the early days of medical marijuana dispensaries, when the city had several hundred marijuana businesses, some being run by people with criminal backgrounds.

“The days of Dr. Reefer are behind us,” Councilman Tim Plass said, referring to a notorious business on University Hill.

Several marijuana business owners and their representatives told the council that the city’s rules prevent them from ever selling their businesses, even though they’ve been compliant with strict rules, or from expanding in the ways they need to in order to remain viable. They urged the city to reconsider the requirement for physical separation between medical and retail sides of the same businesses and limits on how many businesses can operate in a given area.

Those types of issues will be taken up by the working group and considered sometime next year.

The more modest ordinance will come back later this fall but will be voted on before the new council takes office.

This story was first published on DailyCamera.com