AURORA | A Colorado marijuana store owner says that the City of Boulder may end up running afoul of the First Amendment in a dispute over sponsoring a LGBT community event.
Chris Woods, the owner of Terrapin Station marijuana shops in Aurora and Boulder, is considering legal action against Boulder after Terrapin Station was notified they are being investigated for being noncompliant with a city ordinance prohibiting certain kinds of recreational marijuana business advertising.
The letter, dated Oct. 8, was sent by Officer Beverley Bookout, the medical marijuana enforcement officer for Boulder police, after being notified of a booth Terrapin Care Station had at Boulder Pridefest on Sept. 13 at Central Park in Boulder.
The letter, which precedes any decision by the city’s licensing authority if a violation is determined, mentions a Boulder ordinance limiting advertisements for marijuana businesses, specifically “any recreational marijuana … product anywhere in the city where the advertisement is in plain view of, or in, a place open to the general public.”
Woods says that his concerns about the letter aren’t so much about how Boulder approaches marijuana businesses but about free speech, calling the decision to pursue the investigation and a possible sanction “arbitrary and capricious.”
“We support and embrace the LGBT community throughout the world and locally within our community,” Woods wrote in an email. “I am outraged that we have been cited for non-compliance with the city’s ordinance for publicly showing support for the LGBT community … I am further enraged that the appointed City Attorney (Tom Carr) is attempting to restrict my rights as a citizen of this country by suppressing free speech and not allowing my company to show public support for the gay and lesbian community.”
Of particular concern to Woods is an exemption to the prohibition regarding “advertising which is purely incidental to sponsorship of a charitable event,” which he contends the sponsorship of Pridefest qualifies as.
“I think this law is highly troubling … [and] casts serious doubt on the strength and legitimacy of the city’s interests: it’s OK to appear on a sponsorship brochure, but not sponsor a booth?” Woods wrote in an email. “It’s OK to wear a logo on a T-shirt, but not include a logo on a booth at a public event?”
In staff emails regarding the matter, Boulder City Attorney Tom Carr included his interpretation of the ordinance, specifically regarding the “purely incidental” language, to only pertain to “publications or signage for the event on which other sponsors are identified,” which would not cover a separate booth at the event.
Carr also noted that at least one other marijuana business was told that having a booth at the event would violate the advertising prohibition “because it was not purely incidental to that business’ sponsorship of the event.” But Woods said that his business’ contribution to Pridefest — about $2,500 — qualified for them to have a booth as part of the sponsorship.
Woods said that he intends to file formal complaints against Carr and Boulder City Manager Jane Brautigam “seeking damages, injunctive relief and attorney’s fees if this issue is not remedied.”
According to City of Boulder senior assistant city attorney Kathy Haddock, if the city’s licensing authority did issue a sanction for a violation, Terrapin Station could appeal to either a municipal court judge in an administrative hearing or a quasi-judicial appeal directly to the district court.
Woods said that all of the Colorado Terrapin Care Station stores will have rainbow-themed merchandise and donating all profits from those sales to Out Boulder, emphasizing that his Boulder organization donated more than $50,000 to local charities in the past year with the intent to almost double that amount in 2016.
“We will take every step necessary to ensure that support continues,” Woods said.
Terrapin Station has forgotten that pot is still a federally illegal drug and brings with it a number of restrictions. If you can’t abide by the rules then you shouldn’t be in the business.
Terrapin Care Station is not only aware of guidelines set in place but is often the standard for how the state implements the regulations. The Boulder restrictions are antiquated and far exceed the state’s advertising laws.
Terrapin Care Station has no issues in Aurora, another city it conducts business, and is able to offer coupons, t-shirts, and receives the same treatment as other sponsors during non-profit events. Boulder bans coupons, logo merchandise which has more than the name of the business on it, and apparently restricts marijuana businesses from receiving equal treatment as other sponsors for events such as Pridefest, including having a booth to hand out business cards and educational brochures.
All this because Tom Carr INTERPRETS the restriction this way: “At the time the advertising restriction was adopted, the discussion related to protecting the community, particularly minors, from being exposed to marijuana advertising in public places. Several parents had stated that they wanted to be able to enjoy festivals and events, and move around Boulder with their children without having to explain all the marijuana issues.”
Ideally, parents would explain “all the marijuana issues” with their children just as they would with alcohol. Under Amendment 64, marijuana and alcohol should be regulated the same. Please note, there was a booth at Pridefest for an alcoholic beverage store as well as a booth for a sex toy shop.
OUT Boulder provided a letter stating that no more than 30% of attendees of this event were under age 21. Furthermore, the advertising restrictions are outlined here clearly stating that the prohibition set forth does not apply to charitable events:
6-16-8 (p) Advertisement.
A recreational marijuana business may not advertise in a manner that is misleading, deceptive, false, or designed to appeal to minors. The following conditions shall apply:
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, it shall be unlawful for any person licensed under this chapter or any other person to advertise any recreational marijuana or recreational marijuana-infused product anywhere in the city where the advertisement is in plain view of, or in, a place open to the general public, including advertising utilizing any of the following media: any billboard or other outdoor general advertising device as defined by the zoning code; any sign mounted on a vehicle; any handheld or other portable sign; or any handbill, leaflet, or flier directly handed to any person in a public place, left upon a motor vehicle, or posted upon any public or private property. The prohibition set forth in this paragraph shall not apply to:
(A) Any sign located on the same zone lot as a recreational marijuana center which exists solely for the purpose of identifying the location of the recreational marijuana center and which otherwise complies with this code and any other applicable city laws and regulations, which sign includes only the name and address of the center;
(B) Any advertisement contained within a newspaper, magazine, or other periodical of general circulation within the city or on the internet;
(C) Any products marked with the name or logo of the licensed recreational marijuana center, including wearable or non-consumable merchandise, packaging in which marijuana is sold, or on recreational marijuana accessories sold; or
(D) Advertising which is purely incidental to sponsorship of a charitable event by a recreational marijuana center or a recreational marijuana-infused products manufacturer.
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