El Paso County approves ban on retail pot: Does not affect medical marijuana facilities

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El Paso County Commissioners approved an ordinance banning retail stores of recreational marijuana in unincorporated El Paso County.

Despite a public hearing in which many citizens spoke out against the ordinance and asked the commissioners to wait and receive direction from the state, commissioners approved the ordinance during the Jan. 15 BOCC meeting. This is the second and final reading of the ordinance. The first reading was approved at the Dec. 18 meeting. Commissioner Peggy Littleton voted against the ordinance both times.

The ordinance prohibits the operation of marijuana cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and retail stores in unincorporated El Paso County. The ban does not affect medical marijuana facilities.

Additionally the ban does not apply to areas within incorporated municipalities of Colorado Springs, Monument, Palmer Lake, Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs, Fountain, Calhan and Ramah. Those jurisdictions can develop their own regulations according to Amendment 64.

With many citizens asking commissioners to carefully consider holding off on approving the ban, one citizen asked commissioners to be leaders in the state and to not sit around and wait to see what the state is going to do.

Littleton opposed the ban saying the BOCC should hold off on the ordinance and give careful consideration and not act in haste. She said although she did not vote for Amendment 64 her district overwhelmingly voted for it and she told her constituents she would represent them. Littleton's district sits within the city of Colorado Springs.

“I am willing to propose that we take this and look at this in the future (and) make a well informed decision, Littleton said.

“I don't think we are acting in haste,” Commissioner Sallie Clark told Littleton. “We are doing this in a thoughtful process and trying to get our arms around it.”

In unincorporated areas of the county 55 percent of voters voted against Amendment 64. Commissioner Darryl Glenn, whose district 5 covers a large area of unincorporated El Paso County, said there are legal issues that need to be addressed.

“We clearly have a situation where federal law and our state constitution are in conflict. And if you look at case law, if you look at the interpretation of this, it is very clear that the United States Constitution takes precedent on this particular issue,” Glenn said. “We have a responsibility as policy makers here that if we somehow send a signal that we are not going to follow federal law it is within the federal government's authority to withhold any sort of funding any grants.”

Glenn the county is putting their finger in the chest of the federal government and saying they need direction and clear guidance by passing the ordinance.

“This gives us time to reflect and see what's going to happen at the state level by putting something like this in place by not allowing it until we know what it is we are allowing,” Clark said.

A governor-appointed task force has been put together to come up with its recommendations to the state by February. Retail licenses for recreational marijuana won't be accepted by the state until at least October.