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Denver's City Council hears testimony on marijuana outlets

The Denver City Council is in the process of gathering information on how to implement Amendment 64, the initiative Colorado voters approved in November to allow recreational use of marijuana. Under the new law, cities have the option of "opting out" and not allowing for-profit dispensaries. In our previous posts, we have mentioned a few municipalities that are uncertain about whether they will include retail outlets.

It is uncertain (but equally unlikely) that Denver will opt out. The city has more medicinal marijuana dispensaries that liquor stores, and two-thirds of city residents voted in favor of Amendment 64. Also, given the potential windfall of tax revenue from marijuana sales (estimated at $40 million per year), it is conceivable that Denver will allow retail outlets.

Nevertheless, public safety and the specter of abuse are two distinct issues that the council would like to resolve before they become political liabilities. For example, a University of Colorado-Denver professor gave a presentation showing that drug- related suspensions in schools have increased by 41 percent since 2009 (the year medical marijuana was legalized). Also, more drivers charged with drunk driving have also tested positive for THC (a chemical released through marijuana consumption).

Marijuana related arrests have dropped precipitously, but fears still remain about whether retail sales will lead to other public safety issues.

As such, Denver's City Council is hearing testimony from physicians, professors, lawyers and community members as it decides how marijuana sales will be regulated. According to the Denver Post, the council may vote on retail establishments in May.

So as the governor said on election night, don't break out the Cheetos just yet.

Source: DenverPost.com, Denver gathers info on pot as it awaits the legislative rules, March 12, 2013

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