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Garfield County weighs ban on recreational pot

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County is weighing whether to exercise its right under Colorado’s Amendment 64 to ban recreational marijuana businesses in the unincorporated parts of the county, once such businesses are allowed under the new state law next year.

Voters last fall approved the measure, which makes it legal for anyone age 21 and older in the state to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana for recreational purposes.

It also will allow for the growing, manufacturing and retail sale of marijuana and marijuana products starting next year.



The measure passed with 55 percent of the vote statewide, and by a 57 percent margin in Garfield County. Although Colorado and a handful of other states have approved marijuana for either medical or recreational purposes, or both, it remains illegal under federal law.

The state is in the process of setting up a regulatory structure that will allow for marijuana retail stores and clubs, similar to liquor stores and bars, as well as cultivation of the plant and products, under special license.



Local jurisdictions are allowed to write their own rules governing where and how such businesses can operate within their boundaries by Oct. 1.

But a provision of the amendment also grants local governments the authority to ban sales, growing and manufacturing of marijuana for recreational purposes within their jurisdictions.

Many towns and counties have already taken that route, and Garfield County commissioners are looking to follow suit.

Commissioners will have their first reading at today’s regular Board of County Commissioners meeting of a proposed ordinance prohibiting recreational marijuana operations in areas outside city and town limits from Carbondale to Parachute.

“The board finds that the operation of marijuana establishments provided for in Amendment 64 presents an immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare by making marijuana more readily available in the community and facilitating its recreational use,” the proposed ordinance states.

“The purpose of this ordinance is to promote the public health, safety and welfare throughout Garfield County by prohibiting the operation of recreational or non-medical marijuana cultivation facilities, marijuana product manufacturing facilities, marijuana testing facilities, or retail stores,” it states.

The ordinance would not affect the existing medical marijuana growing facilities that are currently operating in the county, said Garfield County Attorney Frank Hutfless.

Medical marijuana was permitted in Colorado under a separate amendment passed by voters in 2000. However, it took some time before medical marijuana businesses began operating across the state.

Garfield County voters, in 2010, allowed for medical marijuana growing facilities in unincorporated parts of the county, while at the same time banning sales and manufacturing of the product for medical purposes. Most of the county’s municipalities, including Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Rifle, allow all types of medical marijuana businesses.

“This will be the first reading of the ordinance title before the commissioners,” Hutfless said. “It will then be set for public hearing, with a detailed examination of the proposal, policy issues and testimony.”

That likely will take place in August, he said. For today, the ordinance will be read during the county attorney’s report near the end of the commissioners’ morning session.

The county is one of several local jurisdictions taking up the question of how to handle recreational marijuana businesses this week. The subject is on the agenda for the Silt and Carbondale town boards tonight and Tuesday, respectively.

Glenwood Springs City Council is also scheduled to take up the question of how to regulate recreational marijuana businesses at its regular Thursday meeting this week.

Land-use code revisions back

Also on the agenda for the county commissioners’ afternoon agenda today will be what’s expected to be final consideration and approval of the revised Garfield County land-use code.

County officials have spent the past year essentially rewriting the code to eliminate hundreds of pages in an attempt to streamline the development review process and remove what the commissioners felt were barriers to economic development.

The new land-use code will provide for some smaller applications, such as lot splits and small subdivisions, to go through an administrative review process, rather than coming before the county’s planning commission and the BOCC.

The commissioners, after several weeks’ worth of hearings earlier this year, referred the proposed revisions back the county planning commission. The commission last week recommended approval of the new land-use code.

County commissioners are expected to take final action on the amended code this afternoon.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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