Stricter criminal incident reporting for marijuana businesses approved by Aurora City Council

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AURORA | Marijuana businesses will soon have to follow the same rules as liquor stores in reporting criminal incidents after Aurora City Council members approved a change in regulatory language at the Monday, May 16, council meeting.

Council unanimously approved a requirement that Aurora pot stores must now report “crimes of moral turpitude” in addition to any criminal incident involving marijuana to the city’s Marijuana Enforcement Division.

Ward III Councilwoman Marsha Berzins was absent from the vote.

Nearly two years into allowing recreational marijuana stores, some council members worried the current language is too narrow and different from what is required of the city’s liquor stores because it only requires stores to report a criminal incident to the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division if it involves cannabis.

The language in the city’s ordinance states that marijuana applicants or licensees have to report criminal charges, such as felonies and misdemeanors, to the city’s enforcement division “related to the cultivation, processing, manufacture, storage, sale, distribution, testing or consumption of any form of marijuana.”

The new ordinance would make it clear that Aurora’s marijuana store owners have to report any pending criminal charge, regardless of whether it’s related to marijuana.

Ward IV Councilman Charlie Richardson, who said at a study session last week the city’s ordinance was too narrow, said this time the definition did not address all of an applicant’s criminal record.

“This is worse than what we started with,” he said during Monday’s study session Monday before the vote at the regular meeting. “Under this they (marijuana businesses) have to report a pending dog-barking case.” Richardson went on to state under that language, if the incident happened before and the case was closed, the barking dog incident would not have to be reported.

After several motions on the item later in the evening, Ward VI Councilwoman Francoise Bergan suggested staff take the word “pending” out of the ordinance, so all criminal charges could be reviewed no matter their timeframe. That measure passed unanimously.

Aurora City Attorney Mike Hyman said at a May 9 study session that, under the city’s liquor code, the only time an applicant or a licensee is required to report an incident to the liquor board is if there’s a felony conviction or a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude.

As part of the housekeeping measures for Aurora’s marijuana laws, city officials are also looking to allow for the testing of medical marijuana in retail facilities to detect potential pesticides despite medical marijuana sales not being allowed in Aurora.

Under requirements the city is drafting, a business would not need a public hearing to receive the license. City officials say obtaining the new license would be similar to a liquor license hearing. The measure also would change the city’s policy so that all employees — not just store employees — would have to get fingerprinted by the Aurora Marijuana Enforcement Division.

The city is currently accepting applications for retail marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and testing establishments, and there is no limit to how many licenses the city can issue. For retail marijuana stores, the city has awarded 23 of the 24 it made available as part of the recreational marijuana measures it passed before stores opened in 2014.

City staff will also update the marijuana ordinance to include government-owned parks, recreational areas and open spaces to a city law that requires cultivation facilities to be 300 feet from residential areas.

Robin Peterson, manager of the city’s marijuana enforcement division, said city staff proposed the change after realizing a marijuana facility could be built very close to the Colorado Freedom Memorial, which is a park located in an industrial zone.

Several Aurora Council members, including Richardson and At-Large Councilwoman Barb Cleland, said they took issue with the item not going to a committee before coming to council.

At the earlier study session, council members agreed to rehash an ad-hoc marijuana policy committee comprised of Cleland, Ward V Councilman Bob Roth, Ward I Councilwoman Sally Mounier and Richardson to address future issues that may come.