CO: Marijuana Meets The Muni


If you thought the only connection between marijuana and Boulder’s muni was the need to smoke some of the former to make it through a discussion of the latter, you were mistaken.

As the Camera’s Shay Castle reported last week, the city is trying to annex 15 properties along 55th Street and Arapahoe Avenue in east Boulder to simplify its latest muni separation plan. As it happens, those properties house seven marijuana businesses, which learned just recently they were targets of annexation and were not exactly thrilled.

That’s because the city’s marijuana regulations are much more restrictive than the state and county rules those businesses operate under now. To complicate matters further, the city’s marijuana task force just dropped its recommended code revisions, a document that runs 54 pages. It is scheduled to discuss them with City Council at a study session Tuesday. This complicated set of simultaneous, interwoven events can make your head spin even if you don’t inhale.

Nobody on City Council can recall the city ever before mounting a forcible annexation over the objections of the annexees, but that’s what’s happening here. For that reason, three council members – Aaron Brockett, Jan Burton and Bob Yates – voted against the annexation on first reading last week, arguing the city was rushing the process and failing to get the marijuana businesses on board first.

“We’re kind of making it up as we go along,” Yates told the Camera. Councilwoman Lisa Morzel, in an echo of her Folsom Street realignment straddle, endorsed those objections but voted for the annexation anyway. Two days later, the Planning Board made its approval of the annexations contingent on the city addressing the concerns of the pot businesses.

The reason for the rush is the city is trying to get its latest municipal electric utility separation plan together to deliver to the Public Utilities Commission next month. But the unintended consequences are popping up like seeds on fire.

Assistant City Attorney Kathy Haddock suggests the city will permit the pot businesses to continue operating under their county licenses at least until they can get city licenses, but that might not satisfy businesses that would rather not switch at all.

There are at least two issues of fairness here. One is that many more properties than these 15 exist in so-called enclaves surrounded by the city. Because the PUC has already ruled a municipal electric utility can serve only properties within city boundaries, these enclaves might require considerable capital costs to duplicate infrastructure so that Xcel Energy can continue to serve them. Presumably, the city is targeting the most expensive for annexation. Still, it means these enclaves will be treated differently from one another for reasons entirely out of their control.

The second potential issue around fairness stems from whatever concessions the city might make to the seven marijuana businesses to get them to sign on to annexation. What if the price of their approval is permitting them to continue operating under county rules indefinitely? Will the city agree? Will that create two classes of marijuana businesses in town?

We’re inclined to agree with the critics that the annexation process is being rushed for purposes of the muni separation plan without adequate attention to the unintended consequences.

Can the city file a separation plan with the PUC contingent on annexations that haven’t yet occurred? We don’t know. In fact, we don’t know much about what’s going on with the muni lately. It’s been more than two months since the city and Xcel jointly announced settlement talks that could end the five-year muni quest. Since then? Crickets.

Progress slowed over the summer. Whether that’s because of normal summertime vacation issues or more significant obstacles isn’t clear. The prospect of a new franchise agreement on November’s ballot, suggested in that June announcement, has gone by the boards. The council’s next muni meeting – closed to the public, per usual – is scheduled for Sept. 6. Coincidentally, final reading of the east Boulder annexation plan is scheduled for the same night.

Based on the Planning Board vote, the city is now obliged to get the marijuana businesses on board by then or delay final approval of the annexation, which might be necessary anyway if the council doesn’t want that meeting to run until 4 a.m.. It is hard for us to imagine all the issues around the city marijuana code can be solved by then, particularly with the code itself in flux.

We urge the council to adopt the spirit of the Planning Board vote and reject any annexation that does not have the approval of the subject properties. The rights of those property owners should not be sacrificed on the altar of a muni separation plan that faces an uncertain future itself.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Marijuana Meets The Muni
Author: Dave Krieger
Contact: (303) 442-1202
Photo Credit: Jeremy Papasso
Website: Daily Camera