Colorado Springs orders 9 cannabis clubs to “cease and desist”
Colorado Springs Gazette - 09/20/2016
Nine Colorado Springs cannabis consumption clubs received cease-and-desist letters from the City Clerk’s Office last week in the first crackdown under a ban on the clubs enacted by the City Council on March 22.
The clubs sprang up after Amendment 64 was passed in 2012 legalizing adult use and sales of recreational marijuana but banning public consumption. The clubs gave people a place to use cannabis and socialize in private.
Colorado Springs outlawed sales of recreational marijuana in the city, but the clubs got around the ban by providing pot to their patrons on a “reimbursement model:” they could either “trade” cannabis for memberships or sign affidavits saying the club was growing the customer’s legally allowed six marijuana plants for them. Although city officials view such actions as de facto sales, the practice has continued. The ban passed in March, however, says the clubs cannot sell, trade, give, distribute or allow the transfer of marijuana.
The ban gave clubs that existed before Sept. 23, 2015, eight years to phase out their businesses, an effort to help the owners protect their investment. But under the law, every owner had to submit a consumption club application and $200 fee by April 29 to get a one-year renewable license for $90 plus registration fees. Only five clubs applied by the deadline. One was approved, two are under consideration and two were denied.
The denied clubs, along with seven other identified clubs that did not apply for licensing, have been ordered to close because they are not licensed, as required.
Standing Room Only At Cannabis Club Hearing
It was standing room only at a public meeting to discuss the fate of cannabis clubs in Colorado Springs.
The pro-pot crowd stood united Tuesday night, applauding long and loudly for every speaker among their ranks who addressed city council. Our partners at The Gazette noted that the sustained, thunderous applause eventually frightened a service dog who had accompanied its owner to the meeting.
City council is gearing up to vote on whether or not to ban cannabis clubs in the city. Many of those who attended Tuesday's meeting implored city council to give marijuana users a place to go.
"I'm a recovering alcoholic," one person said. "[I] don't want to go to bars to be in a social setting, I want to go to cannabis clubs and smoke pot safely in safe environment."
"My landlord won't let me smoke inside. Y'all won't let me smoke outside. In order to smoke cannabis legally, what do you recommend I do if you ban these clubs? I came from Afghanistan with PTSD. I fought for that flag right there in that corner, and I did it in the name of freedom. All I'm asking for is freedom now," said Jonathan Doezier.
Doug Brown, who lives on Bijou Street, countered that he'd called police nearly two dozen times since June because of the cannabis clubs near his home.
The complaints he listed--fighting and public disruptions--sounded like they were coming from the bars near his home, not the cannabis clubs, several in the crowd fired back.
Another at the meeting, Paul Seeling, suggested Springs residents were feeling buyers remorse over legalizing pot more than three years ago.
"Do we want to be a city of virtue? Or do we want to be a city of vice? There is a medical use of marijuana; I do not dispute that at all. The people of Colorado Springs in recent polls have said, 'I think we might have made a mistake.'"
Our partners at The Gazette note that this was the moment that sent the meeting into chaos.
"What polls?" shouted pro-pot protesters from the back of the room. "What polls?"
"The problem is," Seeling continued, "we can't control it because it has too lucrative a pull from the undercurrent of our society."
"Point of order! Point of order!" another man shouted.
Councilman Don Knight had to quiet the crowd.
Knight says he's in favor of banning cannabis clubs because residents like Brown don't have a say over whether or not the clubs are built in their neighborhoods.
"If we do vote to ban it, no one would be allowed to open a new club," Knight said, adding that existing clubs would be grandfathered in--though for how long would be up for another vote down the road.
"If we elect not to ban [cannabis clubs], then we will vote on what zones they are going to be allowed in...from our planning staff, we are saying our industrial zones."
Jason Warf, the executive director of Southern Colorado Cannabis Council, said the clubs have a place in the community.
"The biggest benefit to the community is safety...they do offer that place for tourists and for people who can't smoke cannabis in their place of dwelling. ... Our owners and our clubs don't see these places as a place for sales, but they are a business, a needed business."
The vote on the ban will be on March 8.