Banning pot outlets won’t eliminate sales

The fact that the Grand Junction City Council voted this week to ban the retail sale of marijuana within the city limits — as well as growing, testing or manufacturing marijuana and marijuana products — was about as surprising as the fact that it gets hot here in July.

After all, city voters several years ago made it clear through a ballot proposal that they didn’t want medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city.

Mesa County residents, and the commissioners who represent them, have been equally clear in opposing both medical marijuana dispensaries and retail facilities for recreational marijuana, even though the latter could be allowed under the constitutional amendment Colorado voters passed last November.

That’s fine. State law and Amendment 64 that legalized marijuana for recreational use both allow local governments to ban such facilities. And there are sensible arguments for prohibiting these retail outlets, including the effect they could have on young people.

As Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper told the City Council this week, allowing marijuana retail facilities within the city limits, while at the same time we’re telling students not to use drugs, would send a “mixed message” to young people.

Much like the mixed messages we already send to young people when we decry the bad effects of alcohol while a liquor store operates just down the street. Or the mixed messages on the problems of gambling while the state spends money advertising the Lotto.

The point is, the question of allowing retail marijuana outlets may not be as cut and dried as it first appears.

Consider, for example, the messages we will be sending to young people by banning retail outlets here:

✓ Marijuana is legal to possess and use here, but it’s not legal to sell it here, so even those legally eligible to possess it have to buy it on the black market.

✓ If you’re old enough to possess pot, you can’t legally buy marijuana here, but you can do so by hopping in your car and driving to, say, Denver, Aspen, Telluride, Paonia or possibly Palisade. All of these communities are either planning to allow retail marijuana outlets, or have so far kept open the possibility of allowing them come January.

✓ No, we don’t want to allow people to legally purchase marijuana here, but we will happily accept a share of revenue from state marijuana taxes, assuming Colorado voters approve sales and excise taxes on marijuana in November, as they are expected to do.

Furthermore, what will city and county officials do if some enterprising marijuana seller seeks to avoid the local prohibition by say, setting up a barge in the Colorado River, as casino owners have done on the Mississippi and other rivers to avoid gambling bans?

Colorado’s experiment in marijuana legalization will begin in earnest in January. It will take some time for regulators, retailers and law enforcement to figure out exactly how well (or how badly) it will work.

Local elected officials should be prepared to take another look at their rules on marijuana in a few years.

Banning pot outlets

won’t eliminate sales

The fact that the Grand Junction City Council voted this week to ban the retail sale of marijuana within the city limits — as well as growing, testing or manufacturing marijuana and marijuana products — was about as surprising as the fact that it gets hot here in July.

After all, city voters several years ago made it clear through a ballot proposal that they didn’t want medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the city.

Mesa County residents, and the commissioners who represent them, have been equally clear in opposing both medical marijuana dispensaries and retail facilities for recreational marijuana, even though the latter could be allowed under the constitutional amendment Colorado voters passed last November.

That’s fine. State law and Amendment 64 that legalized marijuana for recreational use both allow local governments to ban such facilities. And there are sensible arguments for prohibiting these retail outlets, including the effect they could have on young people.

As Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper told the City Council this week, allowing marijuana retail facilities within the city limits, while at the same time we’re telling students not to use drugs, would send a “mixed message” to young people.

Much like the mixed messages we already send to young people when we decry the bad effects of alcohol while a liquor store operates just down the street. Or the mixed messages on the problems of gambling while the state spends money advertising the Lotto.

The point is, the question of allowing retail marijuana outlets may not be as cut and dried as it first appears.

Consider, for example, the messages we will be sending to young people by banning retail outlets here:

— Marijuana is legal to possess and use here, but it’s not legal to sell it here, so even

those legally eligible to possess it have to buy it on the black market.

— If you’re old enough to possess pot, you can’t legally buy marijuana here, but you can do so by hopping in your car and driving to, say, Denver, Aspen, Telluride, Paonia or possibly Palisade. All of these communities are either planning to allow retail marijuana outlets, or have so far kept open the possibility of allowing them come January.

— No, we don’t want to allow people to legally purchase marijuana here, but we will happily accept a share of revenue from state marijuana taxes, assuming Colorado voters approve sales and excise taxes on marijuana in November, as they are expected to do.

Furthermore, what will city and county officials do if some enterprising marijuana seller seeks to avoid the local prohibition by say, setting up a barge in the Colorado River, as casino owners have done on the Mississippi and other rivers to avoid gambling bans?

Colorado’s experiment in marijuana legalization will begin in earnest in January. It will take some time for regulators, retailers and law enforcement to figure out exactly how well (or how badly) it will work.

Local elected officials should be prepared to take another look at their rules on marijuana in a few years.


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Dr. Sanja Gupta now acknowledges some medical benefit from cannabis.  Legalization is here in Colorado and coming to other states.  Even with banning retail (and the editorial makes good points on that, above), and commercial growing operations, why would one ban research facilities?  Grand Jct has some of the best possibilities between SLC and Denver, for real, state-of-the-art science on the matter, both medical and otherwise.

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