Public voices opinion about Amendment 64 during Denver City Council meeting

City council limits public comment to 15 minutes

DENVER - The Denver City Council started Monday's meeting by allowing only 15 minutes of public comment on Amendment 64 and whether to ban recreational marijuana stores within city limits.

The council decided it will not vote on the issue until the state legislature has drafted and passed a bill to implement Amendment 64, a measure approved by Colorado voters last fall.

During the brief public hearing on recreational pot, 13 council members heard from the public, attorney's and experts in the medical marijuana field. The 15-minute comment restriction only allowed a handful of people to speak.

Of the six people who addressed the council, four of them were in favor of implementing recreational stores within city limits. Josh Kappel with the pro-pot group, Sensible Colorado, told members to listen to the peoples' vote.

"Has there been any problems with medical marijuana today? I'd have to answer, 'No,'" Kappel said. "People drive by these stores and see them as any other store. The sky hasn't fallen. Nothing has really changed, so I don't really see what the big deal is with these stores."

But Rachel O'Bryan, who is a Denver resident, asked the council to vote against more pot shops.

"You could buy marijuana easier than you can buy a hamburger and a coffee in this town, and this is under the medical marijuana system. We are not even at the point of retail," O'Bryan said. "They voted for not locking people up for use [of marijuana]. They did not vote for a marijuana store on every corner."

After the public comment, the assistant city attorney and a spokesperson with the Colorado Municipal League addressed issues the legislature has discussed.

The council announced the Denver city auditor will be reviewing the medical marijuana shops, after a state audit released last week found a serious lack of enforcement in the medical marijuana industry. The findings said licenses were approved that should not have been and nearly three-quarters of a million dollars were underreported in sales tax revenue. The city auditor hopes to have its own auditor completed by June.

The state legislature's Joint Committee, which is drafting a bill to regulate recreational marijuana, plans to present it to lawmakers this week. The legislature hopes to have the bill passed by early May, when the legislative session ends.