Windsor is taking steps to ban the marijuana industry within its borders, which Greeley is expected to do once state regulations are known. Fort Collins, however, is more open to the sale of pot.
As cities work to craft plans for how best to manage the new marijuana market, what's emerging is a patchwork of policy that is only expected to grow, potentially leading to confusion among residents and law enforcement while each community works to maintain its own identity.
Among a host of topics northern Colorado communities have tackled recently -- from oil and gas to parching droughts -- marijuana has emerged as one of the most controversial. The battles began the minute voters approved Amendment 20 in 2000, which allowed for medical marijuana to treat debilitating conditions and paved the way for pot shops around the state.
Windsor Mayor John Vazquez supported the measure and said he was in no position to deny people the chance to relieve pain. In light of the decision and subsequent discussions, he recalled the focus being on creating "constitutionally defendable policy" and striking a balance so people could coexist with the industry. That's when things came "unglued" and dispensaries raced in, setting up six shops in Windsor in one week, he recalled.
"It was more proliferated drug dealing," he said. "It hit Windsor like a firestorm."
When the Colorado Legislature passed House Bill 1284 and allowed for local control over licensing and banning medical marijuana, it was clear pot was not welcome in Windsor's town limits. After a series of special elections, the industry was virtually knocked down and out.
No stranger to the game, Fort Collins was in the midst of a citizen-initiated ordinance to ban its 23 medical marijuana dispensaries. That measure passed in 2011, but was overturned in 2012 by another citizen initiative coinciding with the statewide Amendment 64 decision, which partially legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years or older.
Greeley previously took a more aggressive approach in banning the industry, though it is now waiting for state recommendations on how best to regulate the industry before considering a further ban. Garden City, a tiny community nestled on the southeast outskirts of Greeley, remains in its own world where medical marijuana shops are allowed and city officials signal potential acceptance of the culture -- a growing rarity in the region.
As communities and counties enter uncharted waters, some are jumping to get in front of the matter before any semblance of the industry can take root. It's why Weld County commissioners acted in January to bar marijuana shops and growing the crop in its unincorporated areas. Larimer County commissioners continue to eye a similar measure.
And it's why the Windsor Town Board has remained steadfast in its mission to uphold the community's desire, which they say is clear from past votes and resident feedback.
"Why is our community so passionate about it? I can only think that it goes back to core values, family values, quality of life and just the general image," Vazquez said. As for marijuana itself, he added, "It already exists -- we all know it does. (Amendment 64) just brings it out of the shadows and into the light."
Preemptive planning or jumping the gun?
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