A second reading by Colorado Springs City Council to ban (following an eight-year amortization) social cannabis clubs passed by a 6-3 vote March 22. But first, Council took a vote to table the issue for six months, and a draft lawsuit was delivered to the town by Denver-based marijuana attorney Robert Corry Jr.
The motion to table a vote came from Councilor Bill Murray, and was supported by councilors Jill Gaebler and Hellen Collins. The three also voted against the outright ban on dozen or so clubs in operation. Some clubs have been investigated for illegally selling marijuana.
While clubs will have eight years to recover opening and operational costs, council also passed additional regulations through 2024, to include stricter zoning and the addition of an annual licensing fee through the City Clerk’s Office.
During public comment and prior to a vote, Corry provided council with a draft of a lawsuit that he said would be filed upon the ban’s passage. The lawsuit can be viewed here.
“It’s our constitutional right for adults to associate, consume, cultivate and distribute cannabis and assist other adults in those rights,” Corry told council. “Like the First Amendment is nonnegotiable, Amendment 64 rights are also nonnegotiable. It’s a tough message … but it’s reality.”
Public comment was limited to one hour for both sides. The majority of those who spoke opposed the ban, several of them veterans who said the networks created in the clubs help them cope with post-traumatic stress and other military-related disabilities.
Councilor Don Knight initiated the ban on cannabis clubs, which started with a moratorium passed six months ago. That moratorium expired March 23.
“To reiterate, when we started this process in September, a major concern was that the clubs had more rights to open than neighbors had a voice as to whether they wanted this in their neighborhood. This was strictly to give them that right,” he said.
Knight said there were to be no sales of marijuana inside the clubs, and some clubs were openly defying the law.
He summarized several local media stories, to include a piece about drug sales outside of clubs, as well as the distribution of marijuana during a community clean up, as examples of those flaunting the law.
“We talk about limited government all the time,” Murray said. “That doesn’t mean limited employees, it means limited laws. … A ban is the most extreme form of resolution. I’m worried we’re turning democracy into a morality play.”
Gaebler said while there needed to be “practical policy” regarding clubs, she feared a ban would simply push club members into residential neighborhoods.
“It won’t stop people from using marijuana,” she said. “We’re on the wrong side of history. It appears there’s not public process on this issue, like with [the city’s medical marijuana task force]. This happened very quickly without public process or the voice of the community using these clubs.”