Council puts off pot decision for another year

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Littleton City Council punted on pot Oct. 1, voting 6-1 to extend the moratorium on retail sales by another year.

“It kicks the can down the road for another year, and I’m willing to do that to avoid the risk of anything less,” said Mayor Debbie Brinkman.

Councilor Jim Taylor was the only holdout.

“I believe the voters expect us to approve retail sales of marijuana in the city,” he said. “Littleton has a chance to be a leader.”

A half-dozen people appeared at the podium to urge council to allow the sales, and one woman implored them to enact a ban.

“Say nope to the sales of dope,” was Susan Nies’ rallying cry. She worried the approximately $120,000 in taxes that retail marijuana would raise for the city wouldn’t be enough to cover what she anticipates would be the resultant increase in crime, accidents and “other collateral damage.”

Taylor, on the other hand, thought the money could go a long way toward supporting social amenities like the Omnibus and Littleton Museum.

“It doesn’t seem right to ban us before we have a chance to show we can do a good job, to show we can do a professional job,” said James Van Diest, owner of The Hemp Center on Main Street, noting Littleton Police Chief Doug Stephens’ comment during council’s last meeting that there had been no problems associated with any of the city’s four medical marijuana dispensaries.

“Kids might get it from their brother, kids might get it from the black market, but they won’t be getting it from legal stores,” he said.

Brinkman wasn’t buying that argument.

“The schools have said, ‘Please don’t continue to make this more accessible than it already is. Please don’t continue to desensitize these kids,’” she said. “We are the enemy of many because of the strength of our school system, and I’m going to listen to them.”

Shawn Hauser, director of the marijuana-advocacy organization Sensible Colorado, stressed the 160 pages of regulations retail sellers are subject to, saying it leads to a safer product.

“I think if Littleton decides to opt out, it’s opting into the black market,” she said.

Councilor Peggy Cole researched how Littleton residents voted on Amendment 64, which legalized recreational use of pot by adults. While 51 percent of the city’s voters supported it, almost all of them live on the north side.

Councilors Bruce Beckman and Jerry Valdes suggested a vote of the people might be in order.

“The city is definitely split on this,” said Valdes, who represents many of those northern voters.

“We were elected to make these kinds of decisions,” said Mayor Pro Tem Stahlman. “I think we abdicate our responsibility if we don’t vote on the ordinance that’s before us.”

Now another council will have the chance to vote on it, with the moratorium extended to Oct. 1, 2014.

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