GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Although several Garfield County towns are expecting the new retail marijuana industry to make itself felt in this area, none of them is expecting a pot shop to open up on Jan. 1, the first day that such businesses will be legal in Colorado.
Throughout Colorado, municipalities, county governments and the state Department of Revenue have been working on implementation of Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, by which voters last year made it legal for any state residents over 21 to grow, sell, possess and consume marijuana.
Under Amendment 64, existing medical marijuana dispensaries were granted early bird status, meaning they could apply to expand their dispensaries to include recreational pot sales prior to Jan. 1.
After Jan. 1, anyone can apply for state and local permits to set up shop as recreational marijuana outlets, wherever they are allowed. As part of the ballot question for Amendment 64, municipalities and counties were given the leeway of outlawing recreational pot shops entirely within their jurisdictions, although the law still permits individuals to grow their own in the privacy of their own property regardless of whether commercial pot shops are allowed.
In Glenwood Springs, according to planning director Andrew McGregor, the city’s moratorium on license applications will not expire until Dec. 31, meaning no one can apply for a “rec-pot” (as it is known) business license or a cultivation permit until Jan. 1.
The result, he said, is that no one knew prior to Jan. 1 how many applications the town could expect, or how many pot shops could open within a few weeks of the Jan. 1 date.
“I really don’t know how the landscape is going to change,” McGregor said, referring to whether any of existing five medical marijuana dispensaries in town are planning to either switch completely to selling recreational pot, or to split their business between the medical and recreational sides of the business.
McGregor also pointed out that Jan. 1 will be the first date that recreational pot shops, which are required by law to grow at least 70 percent of their inventory, will be able to start their cultivation operations, an indication that the product will not be ready for sale for at least a month after that to give time for the plants to grow and mature.
A Dec. 27 article in Forbes.com, noting the same points, suggested that “cannabis consumers should be prepared for shortages and price increases, at least until the first harvest of newly legal recreational marijuana this spring.”
In Carbondale, only one medical marijuana business, Doctors Garden, at 580 Main St., has applied to expand into the recreational marijuana business, splitting the premises between the medical patients and recreational customers. The business has submitted applications to the town and the state for permits to both grow and to sell recreational marijuana.
There is to be a public hearing about the proposed business, according to Town Manager Jay Harrington, but there is no way the business could open prior to some time after that hearing.
“So there’s a potential, if the town approves [the Doctors Garden applications], to have one open sometime after Jan. 14,” Harrington said. “But probably only one through January in Carbondale.”
Spokespersons for the towns of New Castle, Silt and Rifle all said there will be no recreational pot shops opening up within their boundaries as of Jan. 1, although in Silt the town has reversed its previous ban on all pot-related businesses and expects to begin processing recreational pot shop applications after Jan. 1.
In New Castle the town also has initiated a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses until the fall of 2014.
Rifle, which currently is the site of four cultivation operations and four medical marijuana centers, also has a ban in place for recreational marijuana businesses except for cultivation operations. But, as the town is only accepting renewal applications for existing medical marijuana cultivation facilities, that effectively means there will be no new businesses in the coming year.
As for Garfield County, the county commissioners have imposed a permanent ban on retail or medical sales of marijuana of any kind in the county’s jurisdiction. The only exception is cultivation operations, which were permitted in the county by the voters in an election in 2010.