Carbondale marijuana dispensary law takes effect Oct. 1 | PostIndependent.com

Carbondale marijuana dispensary law takes effect Oct. 1

John Colson
Post Independent staff

CARBONDALE — It's official: This is the first town in Garfield County to enact laws allowing an array of marijuana-related businesses to open shop here, as permitted under a state constitutional amendment approved last year by Colorado voters.

By a 5-0 unanimous vote (Trustee Elizabeth Murphy was absent), the board on Tuesday approved an emergency ordinance that permits all four categories of marijuana-related business to open in Carbondale. Those categories are retail, cultivation, manufacture (making edibles) and testing, and the first of the new businesses are expected to begin opening up in January 2014 or soon thereafter.

The ordinance was labeled an "emergency" because, under state law, the town is required to have its retail marijuana regulations in effect by Oct. 1, or to abdicate local regulatory authority over the industry and leave regulation up to the state of Colorado.

Oct. 1 also is the first day that existing medical marijuana businesses are permitted to apply to either convert to retail, or combine the medical marijuana and retail operations into one storefront.

Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, passed by 53 percent of the state's voters in 2012, made it legal for anyone aged 21 years or older to use, buy, sell and cook with marijuana, as well as mandating a new testing industry to keep an eye on the quality and safety of the pot.

The legalization vote last year came 12 years after the state's voters approved Amendment 20 to the state constitution, in 2000, which legalized medical marijuana, an industry that has been thriving over the past five years or so.

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According to online sources, more than 100 city and town governments around the state, even in communities where the voters came out in favor of Amendment 64, have enacted either outright bans or moratoriums preventing pot shops and related businesses from setting up shop.

At the Carbondale trustee meeting, the trustees approved a 15-page ordinance that had already undergone revisions and additions in five previous trustee meetings.

The law addresses a number of issues, from the minimum allowable distance between a retail pot shop and, say, a school or a drug and alcohol recovery center, to what kind of advertising signs are allowed, and how big those signs can be, to advertise the business.

The law also establishes fees for applying for a license to operate ($5,000), or renew that license ($500), as well as transferring ownership, modification of the premises and other acts.

The ordinance also extended the existing moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses in town through Jan. 1, 2014, to allow the town time to clean up inconsistencies and technical details in the medical marijuana law, which was approved in 2011.

Carbondale has three medical marijuana centers, all of which have expressed interest in either converting to retail operations or merging the medical and retail sides into one business.

Under state and local laws, medical marijuana centers get first crack at opening up retail pot shops. Others who are not involved in the medical marijuana trade will be able to submit their business applications to the town and the state after Jan. 1, 2014.