GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A public hearing today before the Garfield Board of County Commissioners will invite comments on a proposed ban of all recreational marijuana business operations in unincorporated areas of the county.
Commissioners are weighing whether to exercise the county’s right under Colorado’s Amendment 64 to ban commercial activities related to retail sales, cultivation, marijuana-infused products manufacturing and product testing facilities.
The required hearing to consider the ordinance is scheduled during the morning session of today’s regular Garfield BOCC meeting, which begins at 8 a.m. at the county administration building, 108 Eighth St., in Glenwood Springs.
Last fall, Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, which makes it legal for anyone age 21 and older in the state to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes. The measure passed statewide with more than 55 percent of the vote. In Garfield County, 57 percent of voters approved it.
The county’s proposed ordinance would not prohibit an individual’s right to grow and possess marijuana for personal recreational use, within the limits of the new law.
But the measure also opened the door for commercial operations to begin growing, selling, manufacturing and testing marijuana products starting in January 2014.
State regulators are still working to finalize rules and licensing procedures for recreational marijuana businesses. Those rules are expected to be in place sometime this fall.
Municipalities and counties now have until Oct. 1 to come up with their own local regulations governing the recreational marijuana trade, including where and how businesses may operate. Local entities can also opt out by passing ordinances prohibiting such businesses within their boundaries.
Several municipalities in Garfield County, including Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, New Castle and Rifle, are working on regulations to allow the trade of recreational marijuana, in addition to the medical marijuana dispensaries and growing operations already in business.
Amendment 64 allows existing medical marijuana dispensaries to become the first to be licensed for recreational sales between January and October of 2014, before new businesses can apply for licensing.
One question that is likely to come up regarding the proposed Garfield County ban on recreational marijuana activities is whether it should extend to existing cultivation operations in rural parts of the county that supply medical marijuana operations.
Rural county voters, in 2010, were asked whether various types of medical marijuana businesses should be allowed in areas outside city and town limits from Carbondale to Parachute.
Voters agreed to prohibit retail dispensaries and products manufacturing in unincorporated areas, but by a narrow margin approved cultivation.
Several marijuana growing operations now exist within the county’s jurisdiction, although many are considered non-conforming uses since they were established before official land-use regulations were written to govern the industry.
The proposed county ordinance banning recreational marijuana businesses notes that while Colorado and a handful of other states have approved marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, or both, it remains illegal under federal law.
“The board finds that the operation of marijuana establishments provided for in Amendment 64 presents an immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare by making marijuana more readily available in the community and facilitating its recreational use,” the proposed ordinance states.