As Colorado’s economy benefits from the booming marijuana industry, business owners in Boulder are asking State Representatives to improve regulatory efforts by easing restrictions. Colorado has established the first successful business model for the marijuana industry. But according to local business owners, there are still a number of issues that have been ignored by policymakers. The main problem is the establishment of a consistent set of compliance rules for local businesses that mirror state rules.
Boulder City Councilman Macon Cowles is a representative of local marijuana business owners who want city officials to reconsider the current approach towards marijuana regulation. According to Cowles, the city’s regulations are outdated and don’t pertain to the current landscape. “The city’s regulations may have made sense when legal marijuana first exploded in 2009 and the industry included shady actors with criminal records, but the remaining 77 licensed businesses have shown themselves able and willing to follow the rules. They shouldn’t have to live with a “zero tolerance” policy for any rule violation,” said Cowles. The group feels that entrepreneurs who abide by state laws aren’t protected by stricter city laws, leaving them vulnerable to a DEA raid.
In response to Mr. Cowles, City Manager Jane Brautigam and City Attorney Tom Carr acknowledged and defended the city’s current regulations in a memo that was issued to City Council. The memo emphasized that regulations reflect distinct policy choices that were made by council over the years. As the industry evolved, so did the regulations. It also states that the current set of rules are meant to prevent theft and diversion, limit access to minors, and limit the impact on local residents.
Members of the group for regulation change also argued that the current laws put local marijuana businesses at a competitive disadvantage. Boulder City representatives countered the claim by providing statistical data derived from sales tax payments. City officials said that the average marijuana business in Boulder grossed $700,000 a year, more than half of what businesses grossed in Denver.
City Officials in Boulder also argue that many businesses that were licensed by the state were eventually shut down by local law enforcement because their business model was far out of state compliance. The current security plan requirements that have been established have significantly limited burglaries and robberies. Despite a disappointing record on compliance with ID requirements, the current rules have been able to separate medical and recreational users into distinct groups and limit the access of recreational marijuana to people under 21. Additionally, city officials point out that zoning laws have kept the marijuana business out of mixed-use development, preventing the development of marijuana districts and marijuana superstores.