Wheat Ridge City Council has made a move toward allowing marijuana to be sold at the retail level next year.
The council made its recommendation during an Aug. 5 study session, but still must take two formal votes before giving the official OK. But, if the events from the meeting provide any indication, retail pot shops could be opening in Wheat Ridge, beginning as early as Jan. 1.
The action taken at the study session marked the first time that the council had dealt with the issue of retail pot sales since it instituted a moratorium after the adoption of Amendment 64 — the statewide measure that legalized recreational marijuana use and sales in Colorado, passed by voters in November.
“I think we should implement the will of the people,” Mayor Jerry DiTullio said afterward. “I support the voters approving Amendment 64 and the City of Wheat Ridge will follow that lead and have good regulations in place.”
The council has to make several policy decisions regarding the implementation of Amendment 64; chief among them is whether to ban retail marijuana establishments.
But it doesn’t look like they’re going to do that. Only two of the city’s eight council members recommended that the city ban retail marijuana stores during the Aug. 5 meeting: Tracy Langworthy and Joyce Jay.
Jay, a District II council member who is expected to run for mayor this fall, said that the city allowing sales of medical marijuana — which it currently does — is one thing, but that pot sales for recreational use is another matter.
“The marijuana medical application was good for the city and for people who are suffering from discomfort,” Jay said. “I think, for the type of city we’re trying to create, it would be my inclination to ban (retail sales).”
The council recommended that retail pot shops in the city be regulated the same way as medical marijuana dispensaries. That includes keeping the stores at least 1,000 feet from schools and churches.
Retail pot stores must also use the same vertical integration model by which medical pot stores abide, where growers and sellers are required to be a part of the same company and the requirement that pot shops must grow most of the product they sell.
The council also recommended giving existing medical marijuana stores the option to either convert to retail stores or for those businesses to open retail shops that might “co-locate” with their existing medical marijuana dispensaries.
The council’s move toward allowing retail pot stores sets it apart from neighboring communities that haven’t gotten that far yet. The cities of Arvada, Golden and Lakewood have imposed moratoriums on retail pot sales. The only city that touches Wheat Ridge that has already determined it will allow retail marijuana stores to operate is Denver.
Right now, there are four existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Wheat Ridge, with one application pending.
Under regulations that were passed by the Legislature this year, existing medical marijuana shops can begin submitting applications to the state to open retail marijuana stores on Oct. 1, and can open their doors beginning Jan. 1.
Also on Jan. 1, the state will begin accepting applications from all others who are interested in opening retail pot shops.