The Grand Junction City Council held a lengthy discussion at its Monday workshop on how to move forward with developing ordinances to regulate the newly allowed marijuana businesses.
One of the main topics under discussion was over how to further engage the community to get input and feedback on those regulations. Interim Mayor Pro-Tem Chuck McDaniel said he felt the council needed significant public engagement.
“My strong preference is to get this matter fully vetted among the public and listen to anyone who wants to say something about it,” McDaniel said.
Senior Planner Lance Gloss gave the council a presentation laying out what work had been done on the marijuana regulation issue including the past public engagement.
Those efforts took place last summer and fall with a public listening session, as well as the formation of a working group that included members of the industry and community members, which made policy recommendations.
Several council members said they would prefer to have listening sessions with the public structured around specific topics like the appropriate tax rate or the number of stores that should be allowed in the city.
Council Member Rick Taggart suggested using work done during the previous council to develop a baseline document with recommendations the community could provide feedback on.
“All I’m proposing is a foundation to build off of because if we don’t have some kind of a foundation for our citizens to comment on they have no idea what specifically to comment,” Taggart said.
Council Member Abe Herman agreed, saying that the community needed a starting place to provide their opinion on. He compared the situation he was in as a new council member to that of an average resident.
“For me, I’ve never implemented marijuana regulations before so there is a learning process of reading 300 pages of documents and figuring out what has been done in other communities and why they do it that way,” Herman said. “If we throw it to the community without some basis, they’re in the same boat I am.”
Herman and Council Member Anna Stout said they felt it was important to reach out to members of the community in different ways in order to get input from as many groups as possible.
Stout suggested holding smaller listening sessions in different areas of the community, while having a large one at City Hall for each individual issue the council wanted feedback on. City Manager Greg Caton suggested that staff could hold the smaller sessions in advance so council could review those comments before the larger sessions.
The council also discussed a timeline for developing ordinances and issuing licenses. Gloss included a timeline in his presentation, which would allow for the first retail licenses to be issued by January. Council Member Dennis Simpson said he’d prefer to move on the ordinances as quickly as possible. Gloss said it was feasible to move the timeline up a couple months, but that it would be difficult to get the extensive public feedback the council was seeking within that timeframe.
The council began the discussion with a question over whether it wanted to pursue regulations at all. Several council members said with the city voting to lift the moratorium, that it was the voters expectation that they would move forward.
“I think the community in their votes for 2A and 2B essentially sent the message that they want us to work on creating these ordinances,” Stout said.
The council did not set a firm timeline for holding listening sessions, but the city’s proposed timeline would mean those would need to happen within the next few months.