By Cecil Gutierrez
I have always been a firm believer in the right of citizens to use the petition process to effect change within their community. I will continue to be a strong supporter of that right. However, this process requires citizens to become informed of the contents of the petition in order to decide whether to support the issue. Currently there is a petition that has been certified by the Loveland city clerk that asks the citizens of Loveland to once again determine if we should have marijuana stores within the city. This question was denied by the community just this past fall when ballot issues 2C and 2D were defeated.
The current effort is being spearheaded by a current Fort Collins marijuana store owner and former Fort Collins marijuana store owner. While I strongly support their right to bring this petition forward, I am appalled by what the petition contains. It is not my intent to argue for or against this issue, but there are two paragraphs buried deep within the text of the petition that are extremely troubling. The petition lays out a series of rules and regulations that marijuana stores need to follow. However, the following two paragraphs essentially exempt the two petition authors from following any rules. I have included these paragraphs here for you to read for yourself.
“(d) Subsection (a) shall not apply to a business that received a Loveland Medical Marijuana Center License prior to November 5th, 2010, if the business is proposed was licensed to operate on prior to November 5th, 2010, the business also voluntarily withdrew their State and Local license prior to March 12, 2011, and the business applies for a license pursuant to this Code within 90 days of the application being made publicly available. The intent of this subsection (d) is to permit previously licensed medical marijuana centers to apply for and receive a retail marijuana license regardless of the location criteria of this Section.
“(e) Any business that received a Loveland Medical Marijuana Center License prior to November 5th, 2010, if the business that is proposed was licensed to operate on prior to November 5th, 2010, the business also voluntarily withdrew their State and Local license prior to March 12, 2011, and the business applies for a license pursuant to this Code within 90 days of the application being made publicly available. The intent of this subsection (e) is to permit previously licensed medical marijuana centers to apply and receive a retail marijuana license regardless of the number of retail marijuana licenses issued by the City of Loveland.”
What is extremely troubling about this exemption is that a marijuana store could be located anywhere within the city limits. I cannot fathom that as a community we would want to have marijuana stores in close proximity to our schools, churches, medical facilities, parks, playgrounds, recreational centers, libraries, or child care centers. Yet that is exactly what could happen. If that weren’t bad enough, in reading the last line of paragraph (d) above, there would be absolutely no recourse if one of these individuals wanted to establish a marijuana store next door to your home.
I have very vivid memories of what happened in Loveland shortly after medical marijuana was legalized. Marijuana shops sprouted up all over the place. As I recall, there were over 20 shops that opened up. When the city’s ordinances finally caught up, most of those stores were issued licenses with the understanding that if the citizens voted not to allow marijuana stores within the city, licenses would have to be surrendered. In November 2010, the citizens of Loveland voted not to allow marijuana stores and stores had to close in March 2011. Now imagine almost a decade later and some of those same marijuana store owners want to reopen without any kind of accountability to the citizens of this community.
I am willing to allow the citizens of this community to decide this issue once again, should a petition be brought forward that sets out true accountability. However, I will not sit idly by for a return of the “Wild West” mentality that occurred back in 2008. I strongly urge citizens not to sign this petition. Let us keep this outrageous attempt at circumventing any reasonable regulations from appearing on the ballot this November.
Cecil Gutierrez is a Loveland resident and former mayor of Loveland.