Carbondale takes another look at pot law |

Carbondale takes another look at pot law

John Colson
Post Independent staff

CARBONDALE — The town’s elected leaders will take their second look tonight at a proposed ordinance governing the sale, cultivation, storage, manufacture and related activities concerning a planned recreational marijuana industry, as authorized by the passage last year of Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution.

Like other jurisdictions across the state, Carbondale’s Board of Trustees has been wrestling with questions about how to regulate the new industry. Under new state laws due to take effect next year, Colorado will be one of only two states — the other being Washington — that entirely permits the possession and use of marijuana by anyone aged 21 years or older.

Statewide, the amendment passed by a margin of nearly 55 percent to 45 percent, and in Garfield County voters approved the measure by a margin of nearly 57 percent to 43 percent. In Carbondale, the margin of victory was closer to 70 percent.

The town’s proposed ordinance about pot shops is listed on Tuesday’s meeting agenda as a “discussion” item, with no action requested by town staff.

The proposed ordinance is 15 pages long, and attached to it is a copy of a recent memo by the U.S. Department of Justice saying federal agents will not prosecute citizens or businesses that stay within the state’s laws, which are still being drawn up.

This will be the fourth time the trustees have formally discussed the ordinance and its ramifications, the first having been at a work session on June 18.

As things now stand, the trustees are expected to address several changes to the municipal code, concerning such matters as licensing, taxation, criminal questions, the effect of Amendment 64 on the medical marijuana industry and questions about land use, including where such shops can be located, and where cultivation and manufacturing facilities (for making edible marijuana products) should be allowed.

As drafted, the ordinance would permit all four types of businesses (cultivation, retail shops, manufacturing and testing facilities) to operate in town, but the trustees are proposing to cap the number of retail establishments at five in total.

Topics still to be discussed and decided include questions about how much time to allow for “transition” from medical marijuana to retail operations, signs and advertising for the new businesses, residency requirements for those engaged in manufacturing and cultivation, and the issue of fees to be assessed against the new businesses.

A memo to the trustees from town attorney Mark Hamilton and another attorney, Alison Eastley, notes that the State of Colorado “shares back” half the application fee submitted to the state.

According to the memo, this means that if the state received an application with, for example, a $5,000 fee, Carbondale, as the town where the business would be located, would get $2,500 of that fee.

The attorneys are still conducting research into which fees the town can assess, and how they can be used.

As provided by Hamilton and Eastley, the state’s schedule for implementing regulations governing the new industry starts on Oct. 1, when medical marijuana centers can apply to convert their business into a retail shop. From Nov. 15 through Dec. 30, according to the memo, the state must either grant or deny conditional permits for the medical marijuana conversion applications.

From Jan. 2, 2014, through June 30, 2014, “any other person not already licensed for medical marijuana my submit a notice of intent to apply with the state for retail marijuana licensure,” the memo continues.

As of July 1, 2014, the memo concludes, anyone can apply to the state for a retail marijuana license.

In other matters, the trustees will consider a liquor license renewal application for El Pollo Rico, an agreement with Xcel Energy for burying utility lines along Highway 133, and other matters.

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