Calling previous City Council votes on marijuana sales archaic and anti-monetary Brighton Mayor Pro Tem led the charge to revamp city rules.
“I think the best thing we can do is repeal, replace,” Councilor Matt Johnston said at the Feb. 2 Brighton City Council meeting. “Then, we need to let the system work as it may and get the tax dollars we can have.”
Councilors agreed, voting 7-2 to have staff “speedily” bring back ordinance changes that would repeal Brighton’s current marijuana rules and replace them with something else.
“What we are saying is, the council that voted to put this ban or whatever we say, really caused a headache for us now,” Councilor Tim Watts said. “Had they just done what the voters wanted, we would not be in this situation.”
Community Development Director Holly Prather said it would be a fundamental change to city codes and will take time to get right. The City Planning Commission and the council would have to approve land use and development codes at public hearings as well as zoning amendments to determine where retail marijuana stores could be located.
“We would also look at whether or not we would allow delivery of marijuana or related products,” Prather said. “So there is a lot of different things, just in terms of looking at uses. If we move forward with council direction to repeal and replace, we need to consider how many (dispensaries) we would allow in our community, and how do we distribute them? Do we want to do it by a quadrant system like Thornton or do we want to do it by Ward? So there is a lot involved in the research of this and how it will affect residents.”
‘Archaic, non-scientific’ rules
Brighton has some history with marijuana bans, voting in 2011 to not allow medical marijuana sales in the city limits when the state began to allow them. The Brighton City Council doubled-down on that after Colorado voters approved the sale of marijuana for recreational uses at the polls in 2012. The council voted six months later to ban retail sales within the city limits. The city’s bans also extend to commercial marijuana grow and manufacturing facilities. Brighton residents can currently grow up to six marijuana plants for their personal use and can buy the products elsewhere and use them at home.
Johnston said he favors council action, not a voters referendum
“The thought that we are going to take back a measure to the voters that they have already voted on, that an archaic, non-scientific, anti-monetary City Council voted to create codes on the past that made us miss out on a certain amount of money,” Johnston said.
When asked by Johnston, Brighton Economic Development Director Michael Martinez said he estimates the city passed up roughly $4 million since 2012 by not allowing marijuana sales.
“Give or take in a year, each dispensary does $150,000 in sales per year and if you take three or four of those over eight years, we are looking at between $3-$4 million when you included State taxes that get shared back,” Martinez said.
Johnston said the Brighton rules have also created a black market for marijuana sales.
“Do you think a kid that’s 17-years-old can’t get marijuana easier in Brighton than they can in Denver?” Johnston said. “I guarantee it because we have a larger black market.”
Johnston noted that 66 percent of Brighton voters joined the rest of Colorado voters to approve sales in 2012.
“The voters already voted, and all of you that think marijuana should not be in the city, you should talk to those voters who voted yes years ago,” Johnston said.
Councilors voted on repealing and replacing all of Brighton’s marijuana codes, from retail sales to grow. Councilors Watts, Adam Cushing, Kris Jordinelli, Mary Ellen Pollack, Ann Tadeo and Mayor Greg Mills joined Johnston to approve the measure.
“I’m not a big fan, but I am fine with visiting this issue. So I’ll say yes,” Mills said.
Councilors Clint Blackhurst and Mark Humbert both voted against it. Blackhurst said he would favor a more narrow discussion regarding retail sales.
“I’m afraid that we’ve opened Pandora’s box by having everything that talks about marijuana coming back to us,” Blackhurst said. “I think we’ll get bogged down in study sessions on plant growth and usage and a lot of stuff we have not anticipated that is really not that real issue of dispensaries.”
Humbert said the Council’s ban in 2013 was a knee-jerk response.
“I’m afraid this is the same thing,” he said. “The city opted out of retail sales and did its best to placate other things. So my no is because this is overwrought.”