After a spirited debate at City Hall Tuesday night, city council members approved the first reading of a bill allowing retail marijuana stores in Fort Collins.
In a 4-3 vote, the council chose one of two options – to move forward in creating regulations for retail marijuana, which allows the current 11 medical marijuana shops in Fort Collins to transition to retail if they choose.
The second option would have extended the temporary ban on retail sales within city limits for two years.
Several Fort Collins residents joined the discussion, reflecting the council’s eventual vote, both sides debating the benefits and consequences of the retail sale of marijuana in Fort Collins.
Each citizen was given two minutes to provide their thoughts to the council. Residents in support of the temporary ban brought forth questions such as how the city’s brand will be affected and if the recreational sale of marijuana will cause an increase in the consumption by minors.
“As mayor, I’m out in a lot of places. Fort Collins is well known and respected in the nation,” Fort Collins Mayor Karen Weitkunat said. “I used to get people asking me ‘How’s the snow?’… now I get asked, ‘Hey, what’s going on with marijuana?’. It will affect our brand.”
Mayor Weitkunat also said that the lack of current data is grounds for extending the ban.
“Our responsibility is to show responsibility,” Weitkunat said. “This really does need to be looked at in the next two years.”
According to Weitkunat, Fort Collins prides itself in being a family friendly community.
“If we have more availability, more of it will be diverted to a population we are trying to protect,” said Fort Collins Police Chief John Hutto said in regards to increased usage by minors.
On the other side of the discussion citizens and council members addressed the concerns of minority usage, with one medical dispensary owner presenting child-proof packaging that is currently used for medicinal marijuana.
Council member Lisa Poppaw was in favor of moving forward with regulations.
“The reality is we have talked about this for years,” Poppaw said. “It’s time we start moving forward on this.”
Ken Correia, owner of Solace Meds, a local dispensary, says that regardless of the council’s decision he would have continued to push for the change.
“I was prepared for it to go either way,” Correia said. “I guess if it was to be pushed back then we would focus on the medical patients and who we can help and we would work on a referendum if that wasn’t to past we would take it back to the voters.”
Collegian Reporter Natasha Leadem can be reached at email@example.com