Greeley, is the seat of Colorado’s Weld County, the third-largest U.S. agricultural region, yet its lawmakers want nothing to do with cultivating weed.
The City Council has voted to ban marijuana retail sales, as well as the cultivation, testing and manufacturing of pot- related products within its boundaries. The action last month follows a statewide referendum legalizing cannabis for adults.
"The council didn’t believe having actual retail sales and cultivation is in the best interest of public policy," said Roy Otto, the city manager. "The biggest element of the conflict is if the federal government is going to do anything relative to enforcing their authority on this."
Greeley is one of more than two dozen Colorado cities and counties that prohibited retail sales of marijuana after passage of a constitutional amendment in November that made possession of as much as an ounce (28 grams) of pot legal for those over 21. The change also opened the door to retailing the weed.
The state’s 271 municipalities and 64 counties must decide by Oct. 1 whether they will allow retail pot sales, according to Amendment 64, as the law is known. If they choose to do so, they must designate a licensing authority under which businesses would apply. Merchants can open up starting Jan. 1.
The law allows adults to possess marijuana for recreational use, even if the city or county they’re in bans retail sales. Advocates for legalization say it will help stamp out a black market for the drug.
The stakes are high for the state, which plans to use tax revenue from recreational pot to support a regulatory structure that will effectively monitor the development of what is an illegal industry in all other states except Washington.
"If municipalities and counties either delay, or are slow in implementing retail marijuana, or opt out of it completely, that revenue stream is going to impact the state’s ability to hire and build its regulatory and enforcement structure," said Kevin Bommer, deputy director at the Denver-based Colorado Municipal League.
Coloradans will vote in November on whether to tax retail marijuana sales up to 25 percent. Local lawmakers in Boulder and Denver are discussing adding a 5 percent city tax on top of any state levies.