TOE IN, AND EVEN THEN, NOT VERY DEEP: Local lawmakers says Aurora will have pot, but how much, where and when is still undecided

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AURORA | Some recreational marijuana establishments will be allowed in Aurora in the future, and city officials said they’ll decide in the next year which ones will be allowed.

That’s the decision Aurora City Council members came to at a May 9 meeting about commercial marijuana.

Amendment 64, which was approved by a majority of voters statewide and in Aurora last November, allows cities to draft licensing regulations for four types of marijuana businesses: marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities and retail marijuana stores.

A council committee will spend the next few months deciding which ones should be allowed and how to license and zone those that are allowed.

“Some things will be allowed. They’ll be restricted, but they’ll be allowed,” said Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan. “Which ones and where is something that still has to be determined.”

At the meeting, a move by Councilman Bob Broom to go back to the voters and ask whether they want to allow marijuana businesses within Aurora was rejected by the majority of council members.

“I think the voters have spoken loud enough,” said Councilman Bob LeGare.

Aurora’s decision comes as the Colorado Legislature wrapped up its session May 8 by passing bills that regulate the sale of recreational marijuana.

The state bills, which will be signed into law in the coming days by Gov. John Hickenlooper, give cities flexibility to place stricter licensing and regulation ordinances than the state set forward.

For example, Aurora can decide how to zone marijuana businesses, how far they should be from schools, what type of security would be required and how they are allowed to advertise.

“The state gave us a roadmap … we have to fill that vacuum,” said Roberto Venegas, the city’s intergovernmental relations coordinator.

However, if Aurora decided not to allow marijuana retailers, it would not be eligible for sales tax sharebacks from the state. The Legislature will give back to cities a portion of state sales tax revenues from marijuana businesses that opt to have retail marijuana stores in their cities.

Lawmakers also recently passed a bill that only allows existing medical marijuana businesses to apply for state marijuana business licenses for the first nine months. Because Aurora voters prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries within the city, marijuana retail stores wouldn’t crop up in Aurora until Oct. 1, 2014, even if the city opted to allow retail stores.

State Legislators last week agreed to ask voters to approve pot taxes of 25 percent — a 15 percent excise tax earmarked for school construction, and a 10 percent special marijuana sales tax to pay for pot regulation. Those would be in addition to statewide and local sales taxes. And a regulatory measure also approved last week includes rules for who can be in the marijuana business, purchasing limits for out-of-state visitors, and a long series of product safety and packaging guidelines for how to sell the newly legal drug.

Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or [email protected]