The Basalt Town Council on Tuesday night moved forward — though in fits and starts — with rules designed to allow the sale of recreational marijuana.
The board also kept the door open for the possibility of allowing manufacturing facilities and kitchens for infused products after Town Manager Mike Scanlon revealed that an entrepreneur approached him with a desire to open a 20,000-square-foot facility in Basalt. However, the council’s discussion on manufacturing facilities was put off for another day.
The council took two votes that moved recreational pot shops closer to reality. The first 5-0 vote approved a second and final reading of an ordinance that establishes the zoning that dictates where pot shops can operate. They are restricted from neighborhoods with preschools and schools, travel corridors for schools and in the commercial core.
The council also voted, 5-0, to approve the first reading of licensing criteria for recreational pot shops that was recommended by the town staff. A second vote is necessary on June 10. If it goes as expected, Basalt will join Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs in allowing recreational pot shops.
Currently, Colorado law only allows people who hold a medical marijuana sales license to apply for a recreational license. That restriction ends July 1.
Basalt’s rules limits the issuance of two medical marijuana and two recreational marijuana licenses.
While those two votes went without a hitch, the council temporarily stumbled on the staff recommendation to extend a moratorium on recreational marijuana stores until Aug. 26. As it stands, the moratorium will expire June 26. The staff advised approving the moratorium extension in case flaws were found with the new licensing regulations.
Councilman Gary Tennenbaum said the fail-safe moratorium seemed like an unnecessary step. Mayor Jacque Whitsitt said simultaneously approving licensing regulations for recreational pot shops and a moratorium on them seemed “convoluted.”
“I don’t like the way it feels,” she said.
After 20 minutes of debate, Scanlon suggested that they shelve the possible extension of the moratorium. The town can pass an emergency extension if necessary prior to June 26, he said.
The moratorium was shelved by a 4-1 vote with Whitsitt, Tennenbaum, Mark Kittle and Herschel Ross voted for tabling and Rick Stevens voting to approve it. Stevens said he didn’t see a problem keeping the moratorium in place, just in case it is needed.
The discussion prevented the council from reaching a point where they could answer Scanlon’s big question, “Do you want to allow things other than retail stores?”
In a memo to the Town Council, Scanlon said he has met with “at least a half dozen interested business owners” in the recreational and medical marijuana and that some of them envision a facility other than a recreational outlet.
He elaborated at the meeting. “Jordan Lewis approached us last week about building a 20,000-square-foot manufacturing facility,” Scanlon said. Scanlon told The Aspen Times that Lewis envisions a business that could hire as many as 20 people.
Lewis owns the Silver Peak Apothecary in Aspen, and he is building a pot greenhouse in the Holland Hills area. He is also a partner in a business that aims to be one of the biggest investment firms in the marijuana industry.
Nancy Mercanti introduced herself to the Town Council and said she also is interested in opening a kitchen in Basalt for a unique niche in the manufacturing business.
The council set no timetable on when it will discuss whether it will allow manufacturing facilities and kitchens for infused marijuana products.