Legal Marijuana in Colorado Off to Rough Start

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Cities Banning Legal Marijuana Shops in Colorado

Colorado’s second-largest city has joined an ever-growing list of localities in Colorado banning weed shops even before legal pot gets off the ground. The Colorado Springs City Council voted 5-4 on July 23 to deny all applications for retail marijuana businesses.

That makes it one of more than 50 cities and counties in Colorado that have voted to prohibit pot shops despite their legality under state law. Already the recreational market in Colorado resembles the state’s medical market, a geographic patchwork of regulations where just a few liberal holdouts allow retail sales.

Indeed, as of now, only one large city in Colorado is expected to start accepting applications for pot stores later this year: Denver. Four of the top 10 cities in the state have moratoriums in place that will expire early next year: Aurora, Lakewood, Arvada and Pueblo. Those cities could also accept applications, but it’s not clear whether they will.

In all, about 20 cities and counties in the state are expected to accept applications. At least 56 other municipalities have voted to ban marijuana businesses. Most of those votes have come in recent weeks.

Many of the towns and counties that have banned retail pot are small, in rural areas. But some of the biggest cities in the state, including Greeley and Colorado Springs, have also enacted bans.

There are moratoriums in place in another 24 municipalities. That doesn’t mean those cities won’t ultimately allow marijuana shops, but it does mean license applicants won’t be able to open shop by Jan. 1, the opening date scheduled for other pot businesses.

Colorado was one of two states whose voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana in the November election. The other was Washington. Officials in both states are currently ironing out the details of their programs so sales can begin next year.

Colorado Legal Marijuana off to Rough Start
Despite Colorado legal marijuana laws, some cities are banning dispensaries from selling it.

Amendment 64, the law brought about legal marijuana in Colorado, was designed to spread retail shops across the state based on local population. But the amendment also included a provision allowing cities and counties to ban pot stores.

Most of the localities that have prohibited recreational shops also ban medical dispensaries. Colorado Springs, which has more dispensaries than any Colorado city except Denver, may be the only exception.

Retail pot will be allowed mainly in two parts of the state: the Denver area and some of Colorado’s resort communities, including Steamboat Springs and Telluride. The same is already true of the medical marijuana market.

Pot shop bans pose a unique set of challenges for the localities that do allow retail stores. On the one hand, Denver and other open-minded cities will have to police an increased marijuana business. On the other, they’ll gain the tax revenue that goes with that extra business.

The communities that ban weed stores, meanwhile, lose that tax money.

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