City to consider retail marijuana Tuesday

City attorney recommends that June 30 moratorium on retail sales be extended through 2014

A municipal moratorium on retail marijuana sales could be extended through the end of the year after a public hearing next month.

Cortez City Attorney Mike Green recently sent council members a memo recommending that the June 30 moratorium on recreational marijuana sales be extended through Dec. 31. Green said that the extension was needed to allow officials ample time to address complete prohibition and/or revenue questions. The initial moratorium was passed in August to also give city leaders time to address any concerns.

At tonight’s 7:30 p.m. city council meeting, officials will weigh to approve Ordinance No. 1190 on first reading, and set a June 10 public hearing. If approved, the city would neither license any new medical marijuana shops nor approve licenses for recreational marijuana sales for the remainder of the year.

Garrett Smith, owner of The Herbal Alternative on Lebanon Road, one of four locally licensed medical marijuana business, said up to three dozen customers visit his business on any given day requesting recreational products. He estimated a dozen retail customers daily would increase sales by a third.

Colorado became the first state to authorize and regulate recreational marijuana sales, which started on Jan. 1. In the first quarter of 2014, the state generated $7.3 million in retail marijuana taxes.

Earlier this month, four council members indicated they’d like voters to decide if retail marijuana sales should be legal in Cortez, while three others insisted that voters had already decided the issue with the passage of Amendment 64. The city directed Green to develop ballot questions for both an up or down vote to license retail outlets and whether special excise taxes should be imposed on retail sales. An election would cost approximately $10,000, officials said.

The city currently has seven areas zoned for medical marijuana businesses, and retail marijuana outlets would likely be restricted to those same areas, if approved, according to Green.

According to officials, the city’s four percent sales tax on medical marijuana products adds approximately $50,000 annually to city coffers.