AURORA | Aurora’s Monday night City Council meeting was a display of tricky parliamentary procedure maneuvers and flaring tempers as Councilmember Juan Marcano voted against a doomed marijuana industry bill he has longed supported for the purpose of using council rules to ultimately revive the measure.
Councilmember Dave Gruber called the move “disgusting behavior” and “raw politics” while Marcano said it was his intent to use his switched, ‘no’ vote on a bill allowing cannabis hospitality businesses to “advance equity in our city.”
Marcano joined opposing members Marsha Berzins, Angela Lason, Francoise Bergan and Gruber to defeat the proposal, which failed via a tied vote two weeks ago. Previously it had passed.
City rules dictate that items with a tied vote receive a third vote, and if another tie occurs, the issue fails and cannot be reintroduced for six months. However, an item that distinctly fails can be brought back to the council by a member of the prevailing side, which in this case would include Marcano. There would be no moratorium on reintroduction.
“I do fully intend to bring this back after we have a council that hopefully is not susceptible to reefer madness threats,” Marcano said during the meeting, signaling that he may bring back the proposal after the November city council election.
For the scheme to work, Marcano would need the current 5-5 voting standoff to go his way when five of the panel’s 10 seats are elected and sworn in.
Members Crystal Murillo, Curtis Gardner, Allison Hiltz and Alison Coombs voted in favor of allowing the hospitality businesses, which would allow people to consume cannabis in party buses and lounges akin to alcoholic tasting rooms. Gardner attempted to simply delay voting on the measure until Dec. 20. He and Coombs agreed it would give the council enough time to work out some of the specifics of the ordinance and provide more information to residents.
The new rules would have allowed for mobile and fixed-location businesses. Patrons would only be allowed to bring products that are packaged and accompanied with proof of purchase from a regulated Colorado retailer. The rules required mobile consumption businesses to log routes, limit stops to less than 30 minutes at a time and disallowed stops outside of schools, hospitals and in-patient abuse facilities.
In Aurora, where the number of retail cannabis stores are capped, staff recommended the city council not include hospitality businesses in the current number of regulated stores. Instead, they recommended no more than 24 hospitality-sales combined business exist in the city. No more than a quarter of the total number of hospitality businesses shall be located in a single ward.
The city has also opted to grant half of licenses for the hospitality businesses to “social equity applicants,” which was also a key component to the city’s cannabis delivery ordinance passed earlier this year.
Stalemates among Aurora City Council members have become increasingly common since former member Nicole Johnston vacated her Ward II seat earlier this summer. A 5-5 split kept the council from appointing a member to that seat and temporarily tanked Coffman’s urban camping ban proposal. He expects to bring it back after the beginning of the year.
Councilmember Francoise Bergan said she believed Marcano’s vote was “unethical” and failed to honor the process for passing local legislation.
“We could have done the sensible thing and honored Councilmember Gardener’s request to just move it on (to Dec. 20),” Marcano responded. “But since we didn’t do that, I will, again, gladly use any tricks at my disposal.”