SILT — The town’s Board of Trustees on Monday night reversed itself with regard to a temporary moratorium on accepting applications for retail marijuana shops in town, when Trustee Sonny Fernandez switched sides and voted against the moratorium.
Reached on the day after the meeting, Fernandez said he felt the moratorium, which would have lasted more than a year, was just too long a time for him to support.
The board first approved, unanimously, the first reading of an ordinance revising the town’s municipal code to permit possession and use of marijuana and “drug paraphernalia” as it pertains to the use of pot by those over 21.
The modification was needed to bring the town’s codes into line with new state regulations passed in the wake of last year’s voter approval of Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, which legalized the cultivation, possession, use and sale of pot by those who are 21 years of age or older.
As amended, the new ordinance declares that “any person under the age of twenty-one who knowingly possesses not more than one ounce of marijuana commits a criminal offense.”
The second part of the revision reads, “any person who openly and publicly displays, consumes or uses not more than one ounce of marijuana commits a criminal offense.”
The ordinance continues the town’s prohibition against drug paraphernalia of any kind except for “marijuana accessories,” and those are allowed only if the circumstances are “consistent with the provisions of” the new state laws allowing pot use by those over 21.
Violation of either ordinance, for illegal possession of marijuana or implements for using marijuana, is punishable by a fine of up to $100 for each violation, which is a continuation of the town’s existing law.
Town attorney Michael Sawyer acknowledged, when asked about the unusual wording of the ordinances of the revisions, that the ordinance appears to be too vague and could be interpreted to mean that those in possession of more than an ounce of marijuana are not in violation of the law.
“That was not the intent,” Sawyer said from his office, adding that the ordinances may need to be reworded to reflect state law, which prohibits possession of marijuana by those under 21, and prohibits all open displays and use of marijuana in public places.
The next item on the trustees’ agenda was an ordinance setting up a temporary moratorium on licensing or otherwise permitting retail pot shops in town, a moratorium that was to stay on the books until Jan. 1, 2015.
The board had decided to take the moratorium route in order to hold an election in April 2014, asking town voters if they really meant it when they voted to approve Amendment 64 in last year’s election. The months following the election date were needed, according to some trustees, to give the town time to write up ordinances governing new pot businesses, if the voters again side with the legalization of pot for those over 21.
But at Monday’s meeting, Fernandez, who had once voted in favor of the moratorium, reversed himself because he felt the Jan. 1, 2015, end date was too far in the future. The vote was 4-3, with Mayor Dave Moore and Trustees Paul Taylor and Jeff LaValla voting in favor, and Trustees Rick Aluise, Bryan Fleming, Keith Richel and Fernandez voting against.
“The longer we drag that out, the worse it is,” Fernandez said Tuesday, referring to the moratorium.
He said he expects the pot shops, if any do open,”won’t last very long. Nobody’s going to come here from out of town to buy pot. That’s just my opinion.”
He predicted that the pot shops will be buried by the debts incurred by starting the business, and will not make enough money to stay afloat.
Woods said she and the town’s staff will be preparing a “time line” for the board, to be presented at the next meeting, detailing what the town needs to do next to create a legal framework for having the pot shops in town, perhaps including a shorter moratorium to give the town more time to get its pot act together.
The amendments to the municipal code concerning marijuana will have their second reading before the board of trustees on Oct. 14.
“Nobody’s going to come here from out of town to buy pot. That’s just my opinion.”
Silt Trustee Sonny Fernandez