Citizen Minutes – Littleton City Council Meeting Nov. 24, 2009

Citizen Minutes                  Special Meeting                  Littleton City Council

Tuesday November 24, 2009

 1. Study Session Topics

 a) 7:00 p.m. Discussion of regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries – This topic was put on the agenda after Debbie Brinkman introduced a motion to place a 90-day moratorium on approving anymore Medical Marijuana retailers until Council had an opportunity to discuss the matter.

 Phil Cernanec opened with a question to the attorney to define a “debilitating medical condition” as stated in the law.  Suzanne Staiert said it would include Cancer, Glaucoma, AIDS etc.  The City does not have any control over the definition and the regulatory agency is the Colorado Department of Health.  What we do have the power to control is the zoning and location.  In this context dispensary is the same as a caregiver.

 Peggy Cole moved to have the attorney draft an ordinance for a 12 month moratorium for issuing medical marijuana licenses in Littleton.  Brinkman seconded.

 Cole said that state will be clarifying the language and right now the state is in a mess.  Section 14 talks about penalties for selling and distribution and limits the selling and distributing to no more than is medically necessary.  Who decides how much is necessary?  If the patient is less than 18 years old the primary care giver takes control of the dose and frequency.  Several other cities have already prohibited the medical marijuana shops because it is against Federal law.  We would do well to have public comment and 12 months would give the state the time to work it through.

Doug Clark said that Chuck Fraser was in the audience as a medical doctor to respond to councils’ questions if they had them. 

Jim Taylor asked Staiert if the 90 day moratorium could be extended.  She said only as a regular ordinance and not an emergency ordinance.  Taylor said he would prefer to have their regulations in place sooner than later and a one year delay is later.  A full year is too long. 

Cole asked Staiert if Council could change their moratorium if the State came up with regulations before the one year.  Staiert said they could either repeal the moratorium or supersede it with a new ordinance. 

Brinkman asked if a moratorium is in place can the City regulate the existing stores?  Staiert said they will operate under the current conditions.  Brinkman said there are 9 approved (3 opened) and one under construction.  The signage will become very interesting.  Brinkman visited the 9 locations and went into the 3 operating stores.  One store is considering iron bars and they have security cameras even though they are not required to have them.  The store at 135 W. Littleton Blvd. wants to sell grow equipment and expand.  Brinkman said patrons are not admitted without a “card” but she was allowed in when she explained the nature of her visit.  She said there was a sofa and television.  The shop next to Jose’s intends to sell hemp clothing, vitamins and wants to add a massage service.  There’s an Alternative Physicians Network located in downtown Littleton.  The doctor on premise was a Pathologist. 

There are “grow” opportunities.  “Mother plants” can be sold to patients.  Marijuana food items can be sold – it is a whole lot more than just a dispensary.  There are 20 to 25 different types of marijuana and some is on sale.  Some of the shops sell paraphernalia.  There are location issues, security issues and existing location issues.  There are 3 on Main Street. 

Bruce Stahlman asked what staff was charged to do on November 3rd. Staiert said to bring back options for the Council to consider and Clark said this was that meeting. 

Stahlman asked if anyone had estimated the annual revenue to the City based on sales tax and licensing fees.  Jim Woods said only one shop has been open for three months and there was no track record as of yet.  Stahlman asked if the Littleton Police Department feedback had been included in the November 3rd meeting?  Clark said no. 

Chief Coogan said they do not have the data on impact yet – with only 1 open for three months.  We are receiving a lot of conflicting information.  The Department of Health won’t regulate and the DA won’t prosecute.  We will enforce the Council’s regulation and we are looking to the State for guidance. 

Staiert said if the police confiscate plants they have to keep them alive.  If the police use the information from the medical marijuana shops sales to connect an individual to another crime it will be a misdemeanor for the police. 

Coogan said there is no clear guidance from the DA’s office.  The cops can’t determine if it is medical marijuana or an illegal possession of marijuana. 

Brinkman asked if a permit was required to transport medical. 

Police officer Sam Mullins said he had attended a training session and said transportation of medical marijuana was not regulated.  However if someone is in possession of medical marijuana they would need a caregivers card.  There are limits on the number of plants too.  You can have up to 6 with no more than 3 flowering at one time.  But if you are a caregiver for 12 patients then you can have 6 plants per patient.

Chief Coogan said there’s another problem.  The Colorado Department of Health has the data base for card carriers and they are open Monday – Friday during regular business hours.  If the police stop someone outside of their regular hours they will not have access to the data base.

Jose asked Dr. Fraser if he knew about the number of people that are sick and need medical marijuana.  Dr. Fraser said there were 8 indications and now there are 21.  There is a tremendous state of flux.  One report will say it is the greatest thing and is not habit forming.  It will lead to a calm and sedentary approach to life.  The other side states a direct effect on the central nervous system and can lead to depression and epilepsy and confusion.  There will be an increase in robberies and car accidents.  Prescription drugs cannot be taxed and as a doctor he cannot write a script for marijuana.  There is no known way to assess the strength of marijuana. 

Cernanec said the current situation is confusing.  There are other issues that relate.  What is the likelihood that the state will clarify this?  We have an opportunity to regulate the dispensaries but he was not sure that will deal with Chief Coogan’s issues.  Most of the voting precincts supported Amendment 20 and he was not sure they knew what they knew it was a broad grey area.  The motion on the floor only addresses one issue.

Brinkman asked Officer Mullins if he stopped someone with ten pounds of marijuana what would the normal investigation be.  Mullins said if the person is a caregiver they would need to produce a card.  He can look at the card for signs that it is a legitimate card but he can’t verify the card with the Department of Health until the next morning if his stop is at 11pm. If he seized the marijuana or plants the liability is on the police and city. 

Mullins said he could pull over a patient – they can have 2 ounces on them legally.  If he stops them and they don’t tell him they are a marijuana patient he can’t ask them if they are on the registry.  Even if he searches the car and finds the card he can’t retrieve it or take it; he has to be given the card by the individual. 

Cole asked Woods what the code says about the business being in violation with the Federal law.  Woods said the voters of the State of Colorado approved Amendment 20.  The localities have to comply with zoning and sales tax licenses.  

Mullins said certain things still apply.  Driving Under the Influence of Drugs is still subject to legal action.

 Brinkman asked how it applies to dispensaries – for instance you can’t drink in liquor stores.  Can there be any use in a dispensary?  Mullins said the Amendment prohibits the use in public forums.

 Taylor asked about any regulations that might be put into place and how they would impact the 9 stores already approved. 

Staiert said certain laws have vested rights.  If they were approved and zoning rules changed then they would be allowed as a non-conforming use.  There is no vested right in licensing and any changes in licensing regulations could be applied retroactively.  The faster we get the rules in place the better we will be. 

Stahlman asked if we knew how many names are on the registry now.  Mullins said about 21,000 with daily requests in the range of 800-1200 per day.  If the paperwork is in order the Department of Health will issue a card.  The average age of a card carrier is 40.  If someone submits the paperwork and is not approved in 35 days they are automatically approved as long as they keep a copy of the paperwork with them.  Their application could be denied once it is reviewed by the authorities. 

Jose said they could handle this in 90 days. 

Clark said the constitutional amendment passed in Littleton on a 57% to 43% vote.  Our citizens said they wanted medical marijuana.  To put a one year moratorium doesn’t solve any particular problem and opposes the will of the people.  We need to buckle down and limit the number and control what we reasonably need.  We need to talk about licensing schemes and regulations and deal with the issues. 

Brinkman said she will not support the motion because she wants to act faster than one year.  She wasn’t sure the people voted to have three marijuana dispensaries on Main Street.  There’s a huge difference in prescribing marijuana for people in chronic pain and other uses but that is not our debate.  How we manage it in our City is something we need to resolve and I wish it had been in front of use sooner than it was.  Do we need or want more dispensaries in our City?  Clark agreed with Brinkman and said he did not think they we were necessarily stuck with nine dispensaries in Littleton.  Motion failed 1/6 with Cole voting in favor of the motion. 

Council then gave staff some suggestions for future discussions on the subject. 

Clark wanted to consider:

Licensing process to include the need of the City, the neighborhood and general welfare of the City.  He thought 9 were too many.

  • Oversight provision – a process for a disciplinary hearing that would result in losing their license.
  • Condition of having a license
  • Consumption prohibited on premises
  • Lighting ordinance – current regulations will apply to signage, hours, and grow lights
  • Large amount of cash generated – maybe require a time lock safe.
  • Marijuana sold has to be grown on site. 

Woods said they would need to consider the practicality of enforcement. 

Brinkman added the need for inspecting the electrical supply to make sure it was up to code to handle grow lights etc.  She also thought it would be a good idea to require them to take credit cards to minimize the large amounts of cash on the premises.  

Cernanec would like to see a parallel against what needs to be required for a liquor retailer and a pharmacy to use as guidance.  He did not want to become the supply location for Colorado. 

Cole said her preference was to see marijuana totally legalized, preferred that it only be grown in agricultural zones and define more clearly the management of the well being of the patient.  She did not want them allowed in the TOD and residential areas.  Woods said they could not be located in a residential area. 

Taylor wanted to look at the hours of operation, security of the premises, record keeping, background check and character of the licensee, prohibit a mobile operation, age and ID requirements as part of the record keeping.  He suggested that Suzanne Staiert look at the Santa Barbara model. 

Brinkman said they also needed to deal with the grow operations. 

Stahlman saw it as a two step process.  It is either legal or it isn’t.  Needs to be regulated but is concerned that the regulation will over burden law enforcement.  The license permit needs to be expensive – $10,000 to start – $30,000 if it is that lucrative.  The voters said they wanted it but that doesn’t mean that they wanted it here.  We could throw it back to the voters.  We have traversed into the land of unintended consequences. 

Brinkman said the horse is out of the barn and after visiting the shops today she felt like she was in a different world – they didn’t feel like Littleton.  Amendment 20 was not well thought out and she would rather see staff use their time to come back with information in a study session before drafting an ordinance.  Ninety days gives us time and we are not ready for a first reading at this time.  She also cautioned the parallel path suggested by Cernanec – you don’t need a caregiver to buy a six-pack.

The study session has been scheduled for December 8th.  

b) 8:00 p.m. Discussion of 2010 Council workshop topics, dates, and location

 The Workshop has been traditionally held at the Littleton Museum and Cole wanted to televise the meeting on Channel 8.  Clark thought it might be easier to televise the meeting rather than to figure out minutes. 

Brinkman said she appreciated the need to televise but it is unrealistic to expect people to watch.  We could hire a transcriber.  We publish a booklet that is very thorough.  The meeting is open to the public.  The Community Room will not accommodate the number of people that will attend.  Since neither of the two rooms at the City Center serves them well she suggested pricing a transcriber or a videographer for the museum location. 

Taylor agreed with Brinkman and thought they ought to check with Doug Reed as he might have a suggestion. 

Cole moved to hold the meeting in a location where it could be televised.  Clark seconded her motion.  Motion failed 1/6 with Cole the only Aye.

Brinkman moved to hold the workshop at the museum.  Cernanec seconded and motion carried 5/1 with Cole disenting.

Clark said they would need a recorder for the motion made at the Workshop that can be used to produce minutes.  Brinkman moved for the City Clerk to record all motions.  Stahlman seconded and motion passed 7/0.

The Workshop will begin at 8am. 

Cernanec moved to include Economic Development and discuss communication with business as a discussion item.  Stahlman seconded.  Motion passed 5/2 with Cole and Jose dissenting. 

Clark moved to include the following for their workshop discussions:

      Overview of the Economic Outlook for 2010

      Sternberg Building Renovation

      Economic Development

      And possibly (time permitting) the Rebuilding of Rio Grande Avenue. 

Motion passed 5/2 with Cernanec and Cole dissenting. 

Clark moved to hold the Workshop on February 19th.  There was a concern as to whether or not they would have good number for the economic outlook discussion. Motion passed 4/3 with Cernanec, Cole and Brinkman dissenting. 

Sterling Ranch – Taylor ended the meeting by informing the other members of the Council that he had asked the City staff to review the economic information from Sterling Ranch and the impact on Littleton.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: