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Pueblo Council Working Out Rules for Marijuana Stores

Source: Pueblo Chieftain

City Council took its first careful steps into licensing recreational marijuana stores Monday night as it debated the details of the licensing ordinance it will vote on April 27.

Council members quickly targeted some issues in the draft ordinance — such as giving “bonus points” to applicants who had cash reserves above the $200,000 minimum being recommended.

“I’ve got problems giving extra points to people who have a ton of dough,” Councilman Bob Schilling said.

President Steve Nawrocki agreed, prodding staff with, “Do we tell a liquor store how much money it needs to open up?”

Nawrocki said he was “totally against” an application system that favored wealthier applicants.

“What bank is going to give a letter of credit to a marijuana business? They won’t,” Nawrocki said. “So what we’re talking about is dealing with people with cash.”

The draft rules facing council on April 27 would limit the number of recreational stores to eight — four north of the Arkansas River and four south. They would be allowed in business, business park and industrial zones.

The city’s new Marijuana Licensing Board would give applicants points based on their business plan, criminal record and other attributes.

Councilmen John Cordova and Chris Nicoll both said they were concerned stores could “cluster” in particular areas. Staff said council could set buffer zones keeping stores from being too close to each other.

Councilman Dennis Flores asked if the public would be able to oppose putting a store at a specific site. Staff said the licensing board would conduct a public hearing but only on the specifics of that location.

“Our residents are purchasing their marijuana in (Pueblo County)” Flores said. “I’m concerned about us inheriting lots of social issues in the city without the funds to do anything.”

Flores also noted that state law allows cities to ban marijuana stores if they choose to.

Schilling reminded council that only city residents will be able to testify at the April 27 public hearing.

Councilwoman Eva Montoya repeated that she always votes against legalizing marijuana. Which she and Nicoll did again Monday night as they consistently have done on recreational marijuana in the city.

Which underlines the question about whether there is a majority on council to pass the ordinance, although that seems likely. Nawrocki, Schilling, Brown and Cordova have publicly expressed support for local sales.

On the political front, Nicoll announced he is running for re-election to his at-large seat this year.

Montoya made a different decision, saying she would not run again for her District 2 seat this year. Montoya has been very ill at times this winter, missing weeks of meetings.

- See more at: http://www.chieftain.com/special/marijuana/3514101-120/council-pages-pageset-pagesetid#sthash.Bcgk8XSF.dpuf