Lamar’s Legal Limbo on Marijuana Petition

 

 

The Lamar City Council, litigation parties, city residents and prospective marijuana entrepreneurs are awaiting a ruling from District Court Judge Michael Davidson on a private citizen’s challenge to the petition process which allowed November’s ballot questions determining the future of legal marijuana sales in the city.

Judge Davidson issued a supplemental briefing order allowing the City of Lamar and Plaintiff, Wanda Rohlman, extra time to present their claims in light of earlier findings presented to each of them by the court.  Initial arguments were presented on January 10th as to whether the petition process had sufficient valid signatures to move forward to placing two ballot questions on sale and taxation of marijuana in Lamar before the voters.

Judge Davidson gave both parties until the end of February to respond to his supplemental brief, and to date, the judge has not issued his findings.

“The City had been asked by the plaintiff to void the election results, but that’s something the city has no control over,” he explained, adding that the question of petition validity came to him the day after the election and the city council will abide by the court’s decision no matter which way the judge rules.  He added that the election results are still valid and the public made their determination on legalized sales back in November. Crespin said the petition situation doesn’t alter the outcome of those election votes.

“The plaintiff may have the option of making an appeal, but the city will not.  We hope we’ll have some kind of hint when that will be, but so far, the council and everyone else will have to wait to see what will happen next, Crespin said.  “In the meantime, we’re still getting a lot of questions from the public about this delay.  All of us will just have to be patient.”

“Along with questions about the delay, the city is still getting a lot of questions from people and dispensary owners interested in getting their shops open in town.  No one should take any steps right now.  That would be premature,” the mayor explained.

Crespin said he has not heard from the petition originator, SOCO, regarding the trial.  If there is a ruling against the petitions, the city does have some options.  The council could put the two ballot questions on a future election or they could also opt to hold another petition drive and from there, place the two questions before the voters.  “The people have spoken and it’s hard to go against that,” he stated.

The city council created a study committee to gain insight into the ramifications of legalized sales, contacting the state and other similar-sized communities that have already allowed marijuana sales and grow and manufacture operations.  It’s still going to be a long process determining all the factors involved in permitting, zoning, ordinances, regulations, public hearings, the criteria for issuing a permit and how many shops will be allowed in the community.  Crespin has pointed out that scenario a number of times, even before the November election.  He advised caution for anyone speculating on a land purchase or an empty store in hopes of getting a head start on any competition, should sales go forward.

“We intend to start small.  We need to learn how to monitor and regulate sales and to determine what criteria we will use in determining how many permits are issued and who will receive them from our application process,” he explained.

Crespin said the idea scenario will be a group that incorporates a number of facets into commercial sales.  “We’d probably be more lenient to an establishment that intends to grow and manufacture marijuana products than just a person who opens a shop somewhere in town.  I’d hope to see requests from people that can show they’ll have a vested interest in our community and can open an operation that has from 25 to maybe as many as 50 employees instead of a simple store that hires four or five people to run the operation.”
By Russ Baldwin

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