CARBONDALE — The town’s elected leaders here are considering whether to impose a cap on the number of “recreational marijuana” shops that will be allowed into Carbondale under the state’s new laws legalizing the possession, use and sale of pot for those over 21.
Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 to the state constitution last year, 12 years after the state’s electorate approved Amendment 20, which legalized the medical marijuana industry.
The limit on the number of retail shops in town, something that was not done when the medical marijuana industry began to boom several years ago, was viewed as a way to limit the impact of the new industry until more is known about a number of issues, including whether the federal government will be busting the new shops for violating the federal prohibition against marijuana.
But at least one trustee was skeptical about the idea.
“I’m not excited about a cap,” said Trustee Pam Zentmyer, “because we haven’t done that with medical marijuana or with liquor stores.”
Cities and towns across Colorado, as well as the state government, are scrambling to come up with a regulatory framework for growers, bakers and sellers of marijuana and related products in time for deadlines on Oct. 31 to have the laws in place, and on Jan. 1, 2014, when pot shops will be able to apply for state and local licenses.
The Carbondale trustees, at a work session Tuesday night, exhaustively discussed a proposed ordinance that would establish regulations for the new pot businesses, which were authorized when the state’s voters passed Amendment 64 to the state constitution last year. Because it was a work session, no formal decisions could be made or votes taken, but the trustees took the opportunity to make their feelings clear.
For one thing, they leaned toward the idea of permitting existing medical marijuana shops to “convert” to recreational shops, thereby eliminating the need for prescriptions held by their customers, perhaps until Jan. 1, when other entrepreneurs might then be able to apply for recreational pot business licenses.
The trustees also debated prohibiting pot shops from operating within 500 feet of schools, churches and other businesses, as measured by the most direct walking route.
They also discussed the idea of including “sober houses” or drug and alcohol rehabilitation and counseling centers, as well as schools and churches, but no clear direction was achieved beyond asking the town’s staff to contact local rehab centers to see how they feel about the matter.
“I think we ought to try to keep it more in line with what we do with alcohol, which is a much more dangerous drug [than pot], as we all know,” said Trustee Frosty Merriott, in opposition to expanding the list of establishments that must be separated from the pot shops by a buffer zone.
Reacting to a suggestion that doctors offices or clinics might be another candidate for inclusion on that list, Mayor Stacey Bernot noted that the clinics themselves may not favor that idea, as they one day may be using medical marijuana in their dealings with patients.
There seemed to be agreement among the trustees that allowing a business to offer both medical marijuana and recreational marijuana out of one establishment would be acceptable, but Trustee John Foulkrod questioned whether the proposed ordinance deals adequately with the issue of cultivation, which, along with retail sales and any other recreational-pot-related businesses, has been banned in the unincorporated areas of Garfield County by the county commissioners.
Trustee John Foulkrod suggested the town needs to set up differing rules for differing types of businesses under the new state laws.
“It’s a whole different process,” he said of operating a pot farm, or a testing facility, or manufacturing edible products from pot, than it is to run a retail store.
“So, I see that they have to be dealt with differently,” Foulkrod said.
The trustees directed town attorney Mark Hamilton and his assistant, attorney Alison Eastley, to keep working on the provisions in the proposed ordinance, including the idea of assessing sales and excise taxes on pot-related business transactions, and bring the ordinance back for more discussion at a future meeting.