Aurora leaders ponder medical-marijuana ballot question

Author: Kara Mason - August 24, 2018 - Updated: September 10, 2018

In this April 12, 2018, photo, a marijuana plant awaits transplanting at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Aurora leaders are considering putting a question to voters again this November to repeal the city’s medical marijuana ban, but some are concerned the city might actually lose money if medical-grade cannabis is an option for consumers.

The Aurora City Council has until Sept. 7 to iron out the ballot question’s wording, but voters will almost certainly have to decide on whether to tax medical marijuana — just as recreational marijuana sales are taxed.

Council members decided to consider a tax after city staff estimated a $1.8 million deficit associated with allowing medical sales. That’s based on data on sales in neighboring Denver, where medical marijuana makes up 35 percent of all marijuana sales in the city.

Aurora city staff expect that to be about the same in Aurora — which would lead to the deficit. But Aurora Councilwoman Nicole Johnston said during city meetings she’s worried that amount may be off, as more people may no longer drive to Denver for medical marijuana like they do now.

Staff advised council members last month that the proposed sales tax — 4 percent — would eliminate the anticipated deficit caused by people switching over from recreational to marijuana products.

Some council members raised concerns about the number of medical marijuana shops that could pop up as a result of the proposed measure’s passage, but those details would be sorted out later on by the council.

Lifting the ban would also allow medical-pot growers in Aurora. City documents said growers started approaching the city within the last year about the possibility of getting a license to grow medical marijuana plants. As the ban stands now, they can’t.

Aurora put ending the ban to voters in 2010. Then, the question failed by just about 4,000 votes citywide.

Council members may give the final OK to the ballot question — or questions — on Monday during the regular council meeting. If they do, the issue will join a photo red light question, a charter change extending the probation period of police officers and firefighters, and asking voters whether the city should be allowed to provide internet service.

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.