Medical pot moratorium extended

Fines to be increasing for speeding, seat-belt violations, open container

Anticipating a “complete train wreck” coming down the tracks, the City Council passed an emergency ordinance Tuesday to extend the city’s moratorium on new medical-marijuana businesses through July 1, 2013.

The moratorium was set to expire Dec. 31. It was put in place last summer, so staff members could revise ordinances on licensing issues such as whether to allow medical-marijuana businesses downtown or in mixed-use buildings and the appropriate distance of medical-marijuana businesses from parks and schools.

Issues then became more complicated in November when Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 legalizing the recreational or casual use of marijuana.

Because the amendment gives preference to established marijuana businesses getting the new retail licenses, city officials were afraid they would be overwhelmed with new business applications.

The state has until October 2013 to set up regulations and permitting for the new retail marijuana businesses. It is supposed to begin issuing retail licenses in 2014.

City Attorney David Smith said he anticipates a “complete train wreck” about the confusion in implementing Amendment 64 because marijuana still is illegal under federal law.

Smith wrote in a city memo that a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of Amendment 64 was still possible.

City Councilor Paul Broderick said the city could exercise a local option to not allow retail marijuana businesses, but Smith said Durango voters could bypass elected officials and pass a ballot initiative to allow retail marijuana businesses anyway.

In other action, the City Council learned that municipal judges were increasing court fines in 2013 to be comparable with the fines imposed by county court and other jurisdictions.

So the fine for having an open container of alcohol in a city park, for example, would increase from $40 to $60 for a first violation. A seat-belt violation for an adult would increase from $30 to $50.

Speeding in excess of 5 to 9 mph above the speed limit would increase from $50 to $70.

jhaug@durangoherald.com