Loveland to draft retail pot ballot referendum

LOVELAND — Loveland city staff will begin drafting language for a possible ballot referendum to allow marijuana retailers to set up shop in the city.

The council ultimately gave staff guidelines to start writing ballot language after four hours of sometimes heated arguments over the drug’s benefits and drawbacks. Speakers included law enforcement, medical officials, marijuana industry members and citizens on both sides of the issue.

City staff estimated legalization could raise between $700,000 to $1.2 million in new tax revenues annually. 

The first reading of the ballot language is slated for Aug. 6 and final approval for the ballot is scheduled for Aug. 20.

Loveland has been resistant to marijuana within its borders ever since the state’s first forays into legalization. Voters defeated a 2010 ballot measure to allow medical marijuana production and retailers in the city, with 60 percent of voters opposing it. The city council later passed an ordinance banning all marijuana retailers in August 2013, preempting statewide legalization a year later. An effort to overturn the ban via citizen initiative in 2016 failed because it couldn’t gather the 2,600 signatures to reach the ballot.

Councilman Steve Olson was among the strongest opponents of the idea, citing increases in local crime and marijuana-related hospital visits, along with the argument that Loveland shouldn’t adopt marijuana retail simply because nearby cities are seeing tax revenues climb.

“I’m worried about losing the wholesomeness of Loveland for a few dollars,” he said at the meeting.

Councilwoman Leah Johnson said arguments that legalization would put children at risk and increase crime ignored supporters who wanted to regulate the drug in the first place, and argued legalization was an issue of policy rather than morality.

“It seems to me at this point that the citizens of Loveland are asking us to refer this to the ballot, and it’s our job to do the things our citizens want us to do,” she said.

Councilman John Fogle said marijuana is already in Northern Colorado due to nearby cities allowing retail, and Loveland can’t prevent its citizens from buying the drug and bringing it into the city. He preferred having some input over the ballot language instead of having citizens write the law if they were to bring their own initiative.

“I trust [Loveland city attorney Moses] Garcia and his staff more than I do someone from the public to draft it,” he said. 

LOVELAND — Loveland city staff will begin drafting language for a possible ballot referendum to allow marijuana retailers to set up shop in the city.

The council ultimately gave staff guidelines to start writing ballot language after four hours of sometimes heated arguments over the drug’s benefits and drawbacks. Speakers included law enforcement, medical officials, marijuana industry members and citizens on both sides of the issue.

City staff estimated legalization could raise between $700,000 to $1.2 million in new tax revenues annually. 

The first reading of the ballot language is slated for Aug. 6 and final approval for the ballot is scheduled for Aug. 20.

Loveland has been resistant to marijuana within its borders ever since the state’s first forays into legalization. Voters defeated a 2010 ballot measure to allow medical marijuana production and retailers in the city, with 60 percent of voters opposing it. The city council later passed an ordinance banning all marijuana retailers in August 2013, preempting statewide legalization a year later. An effort to overturn the ban via citizen initiative in 2016 failed because it couldn’t gather the 2,600 signatures to reach the ballot.

Councilman Steve Olson was among the strongest opponents of the idea, citing increases in local crime and marijuana-related hospital visits, along with the argument that Loveland shouldn’t adopt marijuana retail simply because nearby cities are seeing tax revenues climb.

“I’m worried about losing the wholesomeness of Loveland for a few dollars,” he said at the meeting.

Councilwoman Leah Johnson said arguments that legalization would put children at risk and…