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Brighton City Council approves ballot language for Marijuana Proposal

By Leah Craig

The Brighton City Council convened to discuss the ballot language for a proposal that aims to “repeal the City’s prohibition of marijuana establishments and to allow the operation of adult-use establishments within the City.”

Brighton City Council

The Say Yes to Brighton Committee gathered 746 signatures to support repealing the city’s adult-use marijuana ban and establishing at least two dispensaries. However, City Clerk Tara Brown rejected the petitions, stating that their formatting didn’t comply with state election law guidelines. In the ensuing lawsuit against the city of Brighton, its election committee, and Brown, Judge Michael Hatty ruled that the defendants are required to put the proposal on the November 2022 ballot.

There was much debate about ballot language and the phrasing of the proposal. Councilmember Susan Gardner expressed concern that the average citizen – those without a background in legal studies –  wouldn’t thoroughly comprehend or analyze the qualifiers and legal jargon on the ballot. Her fears were assuaged with the promise of an unbiased voter education and outreach program.    

Mayor Pro Tem James Bohn questioned the legality of the proposal, as well as the economics of the situation. Should the proposal be passed, an automatic license would be given to those who already have state approval and have shared a recorded interest in city property. Bohn asserted that this would be giving large corporations an ‘in’ to the community, and would thus limit competition amongst vendors. In addition, city attorney Sarah Gabis stated that any concerns over legality would be addressed by the City’s legal team (in conjunction with the Council) in the form of “privileged communication.”

In spite of various suggestions, the ballot language was not modified and was approved 6-1, with only Mayor Kristoffer Tobbe objecting.

The ordinance would, among other things:

• allow a minimum of two adult-use marijuana retail establishments with delivery service, drive through, and exterior walk-up windows as authorized by state rules;

• authorize a marijuana establishment license for an individual or entity who holds a state license to operate in the city and who has obtained pre-qualification from the state within 30 days after the ballot wording for this proposal was certified to the county clerk;

• allow marijuana activities only within a building located on a parcel in which the individual or entity to hold the state license to operate has a recorded interest and state pre-qualification status before 30 days after the ballot wording of this ballot question is certified to the county clerk;

• prohibit commercial marijuana related activities within 800 feet of a pre-existing public or private school providing education in kindergarten or any of grades 1 through 12 or a pre-existing park of more than one acre in size;

• authorize the city to enact related police power and zoning regulations, except those that are unreasonably impracticable or that conflict with the initiated ordinance or the state’s laws and regulations related to adult-use marijuana establishments; and

• repeal any city ordinances that conflict with this ordinance to the extent necessary to give this ordinance full force and effect.

While the language has been solidified, the proposal, as well as the proposed means of voter education, will be discussed at the City Council’s September 1st meeting.

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