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The Golden City Council has given a (literal) thumbs up to city staff to start researching what it could take to permit the only dispensary currently offering medical marijuana in Golden to also sell marijuana to recreational users.

Prior to the city council meeting on Dec. 10, councilman Paul Haseman submitted a policy proposal calling for the council to work toward a policy goal of allowing “recreational cannabis sales at the single existing seller of licensed cannabis in Golden.” The proposal was co-sponsored by councilmen Rob Reed and Jim Dale.

The proposal document, which was distributed to the rest of the council, represents the first step in a new process implemented by the council this year that asks councilmembers to submit a document called a policy proposal when they want the council to consider a policy change. All of the present council members (Casey Brown was absent) indicated support of that action.

However, the council clarified that the city’s official policy against recreational pot has not changed, only that city staff has been asked add the issue to its list of things to look into.

“We’ve been getting a little bit of public comment saying `please don’t move this forward’ so I just want to clarify this is not us making a policy change, this is saying we are open to discussion and taking a little time to figure out what it could take before council even has the discussion,” said councilwoman JJ Trout.

City Manager Jason Slowinski said the next step would be for the issue to be considered by the council’s prioritization subcommittee, which consists of Reed and Brown and will work with Slowinski to consider where the effort to look into legalization should rank in the list of priorities for city staff.

In separate emails, Haseman, Reed and Dale indicated they want staff to look into several issues related to authorizing recreational marijuana sales in Golden. Those issues include the experiences of other nearby communities, whether a single license or multiple is appropriate, what possible tax revenue the city could expect, what costs it might incur and the possibility of starting with a single recreational dispensary as a pilot before possibly expanding sales to other facilities.

Currently, Golden city code prohibits recreational marijuana sales in Golden. Rocky Mountain Organic Medicine, which is located at 511 Orchard Street, is the only medical marijuana dispensary currently operating in Golden.

Dale said he wanted to go on record in support of considering allowing Rocky Mountain Organic Medicine to sell recreational marijuana.

“It seems unusual that we have residents of Golden using marijuana but they have to go to Edgewater or another city right against us to purchase it,” said Dale. “I see this as a legal use, in many ways it has similarities to alcohol, and all we are doing is discounting the tax money that we could receive from doing this.”

In November, Lakewood voters voted to legalize recreational marijuana sales in their city by a 66% to 34% margin. That ordinance allows medical marijuana operations that currently exist in Lakewood to sell recreational marijuana. Wheat Ridge also currently allows recreational marijuana dispensaries to operate.

“Some ordinances are broader than others,” Haseman wrote in the policy proposal of the various marijuana ordinances that have been passed in other Jeffco communities. “The most narrowly written ordinance is the sale of recreational cannabis at existing licensed establishments selling medical cannabis.”

Haseman said he chose to make his proposal consistent with Lakewood’s ordinance in only allowing existing dispensaries to offer recreational marijuana. However, Reed indicated in his email that he would “be open to considering a limited number of other businesses and other locations, so long as the applicants are appropriate and qualified and the locations are appropriately distanced from residential areas, parks and schools.”

Haseman also wrote in the proposal that city attorney Dave Williamson has stated that Golden can permit recreational marijuana sales “by council action alone” without going to the ballot. However, raising the sales tax from the existing retail sales tax would require a ballot measure.

“Whether or not (council) chooses to proceed with retail cannabis, certain due diligence is important, such as 1) crime impacts, 2) mental health impacts, 3) age limits for purchasers, 4) proximity to residential neighborhood(s),” he added.