by Rebecca DeSantis, content and engagement coordinator, ICMA
The city of Durango, Colorado, a key tourist destination town at the foot of the San Juan Mountains, faced a contentious debate around cannabis regulation. Years after the 2000 vote, when La Plata County and Durango voters strongly supported an amendment to Colorado’s state constitution legalizing medical cannabis, Durango’s staff was caught off-guard when the first business approached the clerk’s office for a cannabis license in 2009. Quick consultations with the city attorney and administration confirmed a lack of any local restrictions at the outset, resulting in the issuance of four early commercial medical licenses at just $50 each (the general business license fee), including to one cultivation operation.
This triggered an exhaustive process to determine the appropriate zoning, fees, and other local restrictions on such businesses. The staff's work to develop a regulatory process for cannabis was met with concerns similar to those of residents in other communities facing this challenge. Concerns spanned a multitude of areas, including security and fire compliance, sensitive use areas around schools and parks, and light usage by cultivators. Although faced with a challenging process, Durango was able to find solutions that fit the community, and the city continues to adjust its practices today.
This is just one example in a list of many communities who are regulating commercial cannabis to serve the community. Due to the youth of the industry, there is not a lot of research and data to answer the questions that come up when a local government considers how it wants to regulate medical and/or recreational cannabis. Hearing from early adopters of legal cannabis legislation, however, might help other communities in their decision-making process.
The following map displays snapshots of 10 case studies featured in ICMA's report Local Impacts of Commerical Cannabis. The report describes the motivations, processes, and decisions of 10 local governments to regulate commercial cannabis activities in their communities. Though selected from states with longer histories of recreational and medical cannabis laws, these local governments are continuing to monitor the industry and adapt their strategies.