The January 7 meeting continued discussing how Greenwood Village would respond to Amendment 64 which legalizes the possession of up to 1 oz of marijuana. This time, the debate focused mostly on how to deal with transportation. Amendment 64 only legalizes possession, not necessarily buying, selling, or transporting marijuana. The Greenwood Village attorney and police department wrote Ordinance No. 43-12, which was the Greenwood Village municipal rules concerning possession of marijuana. In that ordinance, it says that possessing marijuana in public areas, buildings, trails, parks, etc is considered transportation and therefore illegal. The council members discussed whether they should be prohibiting transportation. One council member pointed out that the citizens of Colorado did vote fairly to allow marijuana and arresting someone for having it in their backpack or pocket is unfair. The debate returned to the idea of federal versus state law. One council member argued that since marijuana was illegal federally, the Greenwood Village police could restrict it as much as possible. The topics of health, safety, and welfare became key in the debate. Many council members opposed allowing any sort of transportation because marijuana could pose a societal threat. Some medical research indicates that marijuana is dangerous for health and is not like alcohol. They also pointed out that the citizens of Greenwood Village largely opposed Amendment 64, and so therefore acting on the beliefs of their constituents, the council should restrict marijuana use. Personally, I believe that it is confusing to constituents if local, municipal laws become completely different from state law. I think that the extra restriction and rules further complicate the issue, for both the citizens and for the police. I also believe that if transportation (even if in just a pocket or backpack) becomes punishable, it might compel people to start growing marijuana, which poses many more safety threats.
On the December 17 meeting, the Council discussed a topic studied in every US Government class- federalism. Federalism deals with the relationship between the national, federal government and local state governments. Often times, there is conflict between the two forms of government. One such example of this came with the passage of Amendment 64 in the 2012 election in Colorado, or the Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol Act, which makes up to 1 oz of marijuana legal in Colorado.
As a Greenwood Village police officer, or council member, which Constitution are they held to- The US Constitution or the Colorado Constitution? Amendment 64 further complicates matter because possession is legal, however selling and purchasing are not legal. Therefore, once again, citizens and police officers are pulled in opposite directions. I do not agree with Amendment 64, simply because its unintended consequence of pitting the two forms of government against each other far outweighs the benefits. However, as the Council also discussed, there really are only two solutions: Wait for marijuana to be taken off of the Controlled Substances Act, thereby becoming legal federally, or to wait for the federal Justice Department to sue the state of Colorado for violating federal law. Both processes will be messy. However, marijuana remains illegal federally under the Controlled Substances Act. Therefore, the council debated what Greenwood Village police officers should do. This spirited, fascinating debate brought up several key, at times unanswerable questions: Does state law trump national law? Is national law supreme? The constitution argues both ways- Federal law rules in the Supremacy Clause whereas State law rules in the Tenth Amendment.
On the council meeting on December 3, 2012, the food truck vendors from the September meeting returned. On September 10, the council was still unsure of what action to take regarding mobile food services. Therefore, the decision was postponed to December 3. On December 3, the council heard and discussed both sides of any potential decision. On one side, there was the safety issue. Mobile food trucks are large and take up two parking spaces. They also block pedestrian views and access points. There is also the issue of competition. Is it fair that a private company is given a public parking space? Isn’t such endorsement unfair to the other local businesses? However, on the other side, there is the issue of small business and economic growth. Food truck vendors want to come to Greenwood Village and set up a business. Why should anyone discourage them? The food truck vendors pay property and sales taxes, and are therefore contributing to the local economy. It is unwise to dissuade them and send them to another district. After much debate, the council decided to push the decision until December 17 so more debate could be heard.
At the agenda meeting on November 5, 2012, the Greenwood Village City Council and Local Liquor Licensing Authority did exactly what the title suggests. The City Council questioned and determined the penalty of a liquor store, Khulan Wine and Spirits, which had violated the local liquor law. A lawyer on behalf of Greenwood Village asserted that the city had given a stipulation to the local liquor store in lieu of suspension. The stipulation stated, that since this was a first-time offense, the store could pay a fine instead of face suspension and lose profit. The store would also have to require employees to ask for ID from anyone who looks 35 and younger, post signs reminding customers about Colorado laws, and place a calendar in the front of the store. Classes teaching employees about the liquor laws and how to differently handle customers would also be offered. After that, the owner of the liquor store and her daughter testified that they had accepted the stipulation and would pay the fine. The fine was between $300 and $500. Although this was relatively routine council business, I found the exchange between the lawyer, the store, and the Council fascinating. The lawyer was pleased that a reasonable deal had been reached. The store owners seemed nervous but graciously accepted the deal and promised that a second offense would not happen. The Council reprimanded the store owners and warned that the situation might not go as smoothly for a second offense. I think all parties were happy with the end result and the Council dealt with the issue quickly and efficiently with little debate or argument.
On the Council Meeting of September 10, 2012 the councilmembers discussed and issue that wouldn’t seem to be the typical topic of a council agenda: mobile food services, or food trucks. The City Council was proposing a law to make it illegal for food trucks to park in public parking spaces. It was fascinating to see how many economic and civic arguments came into play- all while discussing food! Many councilmembers argued that not only was two entire parking spaces a lot (especially for crowded areas) but also a potential safety hazard. Since food trucks are so big, they might obstruct a person’s view of the road or sidewalk. Some other councilmembers argued that these food trucks were taking away business from other private enterprises in the area (and using a public parking spot to do so). Councilman Presley contended that these food trucks should look for private land to place their trucks, since they are a company, and other companies must do so. On the other side, two owners of the Little India food truck at Fiddler’s Green, came to argue their point of view. They stated that this law would all but destroy their company because there are no other places for food trucks to park. Private land and companies often do not have the right amount of space on the road for food trucks to park. They also stated that since they had been in operationg (about three months), there had been no safety violations. This was an incredibly fascinating debate to watch- with both sides bringing up valid points about how this company would benefit the city of Greenwood Village. After watching both sides debate for about an hour, I believe that since the food truck is paying a sales tax and contributing to the local economy, they should be allowed to park publicly. Why discourage businesses who want to do business in Greenwood Village?