Lamar City Council Prepares for November Marijuana Sales Vote

 

 

What ballot question will be placed before local residents this November regarding commercial sales of marijuana within the boundaries of the City of Lamar?  A research committee set up by the council to investigate the pros and cons of marijuana sales in neighboring communities made a preliminary report during the city council meeting, Monday, June 28th.

The council has until July 12th to develop a specific ballot question for a first reading for the election.  A commercial group, SOCO, has secured enough valid signatures through a petition to have a question, which will be written by the city, placed before the voters this fall.  The council wants to be very specific as to what that question asks.

Lamar City Clerk, Linda Williams, City Treasurer, Kristin McCrea and Lamar Police Chief, Kyle Miller reported their findings to the council.  Essentially, the commercial sale of marijuana is a very heavily state regulated enterprise.  McCrea said the state mandates that each commercial operation make a daily report regarding the dollar volume of sales and how much product has been sold.  McCrea said she made calls to local banks to get their viewpoint on how tax revenues would be handled by them, adding, that Legacy and Frontier banks would handle the proceeds, listing the money as sales tax revenue.  She said GN Bank is still researching the issue and Community State Bank would not accept the revenue.  She told the council that sales in Las Animas are handled by banks in La Junta.  McCrea said Las Animas currently has three outlets with plans now for a grow and manufacture operation.  “That type of facility comes with increased security and safeguards because of the potential volatile nature of the product when it’s being extracted and refined.”

Williams said the communities she contacted stressed the need for the creation of a marijuana authority board which would be completely separate from the city council.  “This will be protection for the council that will have someone that will go out and review everything and make checks on licenses which removes the council from that responsibility,” she said.  Williams added that security for retail sales is very tight with numerous safeguards and the state regulators conduct quarterly visits on the businesses.  Williams has received some feedback from Trinidad, Las Animas, and Rocky Ford and is also compiling information from the Colorado Municipal League as well as CIRSA, the city’s risk insurer.  She added that each of the communities reported no general increase in the crime rate since marijuana sales were added to those towns.   The council will review several examples of documentation she received including how ballot questions were composed in other communities as well as application forms and regulations that were developed for licensing a commercial operation.

Lamar Police Chief, Kyle Miller, suggested the council work quickly to determine the ballot language and what percentage for a sales tax will be levied on marijuana revenues.  A municipality has the leeway to regulate the level, which on average, runs about 5.75% which Chief Miller said is for Las Animas, while some can go as high as 10% without needing voter approval.  Miller said he believes the cap is 15% at this time in Colorado.  Previous state legislatures have set limits on tax levels in some Colorado communities.  Aside from the tax rate, Chief Miller said the council needs to determine if recreational and medical marijuana sales will be allowed Linda Williams pointed out there is no tax placed on medical marijuana purchases.

Other considerations from the council involved setting a limit on the number of shops in a community as well as determining where a shop can and can’t be placed through zoning ordinances due to proximity to a church, a school, a hospital and so forth.

If the ballot question passes, there are additional parameters that can be placed on general sales by way of a resolution or an ordinance from the city council.  This allows them more control over the manner in which marijuana can be sold, marketed or produced, should someone wish to produce a manufacture and grow operation in Lamar.  In light of the additional factors that have to be considered by the July 12th first reading, the council has scheduled a work session for Wednesday, July 7th.

By Russ Baldwin

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