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Marijuana debate back on ballot in Lamar

Charter amendment would make it harder to bring marijuana businesses to town
Posted at 11:10 PM, Sep 25, 2022

LAMAR, Colorado — Voters in Lamar will soon decide whether to make it harder to bring marijuana stores to the community. Ballot question 300 proposes an amendment to the city charter that would prohibit the issuance of business licenses for the operation of marijuana establishments, cultivation facilities, and marijuana-infused products manufacturing facilities, among other restrictions.

This charter amendment proposal comes less than 12 months after voters here said "yes" to licensing and taxing marijuana businesses. A judge later threw out the election results for ballot questions 2A and 2B when he ruled the city did not follow its own petition rules.

Belinda Sturges, a supporter of question 300, said the proposal gives citizens more power over marijuana decisions in their community.

"This is such a critical issue that affects everybody in the city we felt like it's so important that they have the right to vote on it," said Sturges.

Sturges played a critical role in overturning questions 2A and 2B. She used open records requests to learn that the petitioners didn't gather enough signatures to satisfy the city's requirement of 15 percent of the previous election turnout. That discovery proved to be critical in the lawsuit that invalidated the vote.

Sturges said question 300 strengthens the city's existing moratorium on marijuana businesses by elevating the ordinance to a charter amendment.

"So, by taking this ordinance and moving it to the charter, for any changes in the current ordinance, it would have to be done through a vote of the people," Sturges said.

Lamar City Council passed that ordinance, number 1182, in the months following the success of Amendment 64 during the 2012 general election. Voters in Lamar overwhelmingly opposed the amendment which legalized marijuana in Colorado.

Roger Stagner served as Mayor of Lamar from 2010 to 2020 and worked with the city attorney and city council to write Ordinance 1182 in the Spring of 2013.

"The ordinance basically said, the city wasn't going to spend any money, nobody could legally open a marijuana distributing center in the city of Lamar, or grow marijuana in Lamar, and we would keep it out of our community with that ordinance," Stagner said.

Opponents to Question 300 say the measure restricts more than just marijuana businesses. Brent Bates, who volunteered to support questions 2A and 2B in last year's election, sees conflicts between the language of the charter amendment and current cannabis protections in state law.

For example, the proposal limits possession to one ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older.

"The state constitution allows anyone with a medical card 18 years and over to possess up to two ounces or more if deemed medically necessary," Bates explained.

He also noted that Amendment 64 already gave adults aged 21 and older the freedom to grow and consume marijuana at home. The law limits individuals to a maximum of six marijuana plants, with three of them flowering.

"Anyone worth their weight knows that if you're growing marijuana, then you're going to get more than one ounce of marijuana from three plants," Bates said.

Sturges and Stagner believe the mood of the voters has changed since last November. They say marijuana lobbyists made big promises to the community last fall.

"They tell you you're going to get a whole bunch of tax dollars, and so it looks promising," Stagner said. "But when you start talking to especially smaller communities, there aren't the tax dollars they thought there would be."

However, Bates believes the election results from last November spoke loudly about voters' support for marijuana legalization.

"There is a select group of people who oppose marijuana coming to Lamar," Bates said. "But keep in mind, that vote passed by almost 10 percent for 2a and 2b last year."

Advocates for marijuana legalization were unsuccessful in getting a new question on the ballot this year seeking to tax and regulate marijuana businesses.

Ballots will be mailed to all Colorado voters beginning Monday, October 17.
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