New Castle delays marijuana dispensaries for nine months
Post Independent Staff
NEW CASTLE — Although one local resident objected to a proposed ban against retail marijuana shops in town and one council member argued for a time out on the issue, the town council went ahead on Tuesday with its plans to delay development any such stores here, at least for the next nine months.
In May 2014, according to town administrator Tom Baker, the ban will come up for reconsideration.
In the meantime, the town will watch to see what kinds of additional rules the state comes up with to regulate the recreational marijuana industry created by Amendment 64 to the Colorado Constitution, passed by the voters last year.
The state Department of Revenue, which will regulate the new industry, on Monday issued its first round of regulations to govern the growth, packaging and sale of pot, which is now legal for anyone 21 years of age or over in Colorado.
The report on the regulations, more than 60 pages long, was highlighted at the New Castle council meeting on Tuesday during a presentation by town attorney David McConaughy, and by a lengthy speech by Councilor Greg Russi.
McConaughy, in his presentation, noted more than once that while the regulations issued on Monday are final in and of themselves, the legislature has made it clear that more rules and regulations can be expected in the future.
So, he said of the two-page ordinance designed to prohibit such stores from doing business in New Castle, “I was trying to keep this short and sweet,” and merely provided cross-references to the state law within the text of the town’s ordinance.
Councilor Art Riddile, early in the discussion, appeared to be hoping to cut debate short when he moved to adopt the ordinance. But Russi, who was not present at a special meeting on June 26 where the council agreed to the idea of the ban, demanded to be allowed to speak on the subject.
“I continue to believe that New Castle should follow the lead of the voters,” he said, noting that the voters approved Amendment 64 by nearly 60 percent in the 2012 election.
His position was seconded by the only citizen to speak at the meeting, New Castle Resident Chip Nealy, who told the council, “I think you should stand up and do what the people want. Otherwise, it’s a tyranny of the minority.”
When Mayor Frank Breslin bristled at the word, “tyranny,” and started to object, Russi pointed out, “He’s quoting the founding fathers” and reminded Breslin that the concept of a “tyranny of the minority” was much on the minds of revolutionary America in the late 1700s.
Russi told his fellow counselors that, after reading the Department of Revenue’s new set of regulations for the pot industry, “I believe that … the regulations could hardly be more comprehensive.”
He maintained that the state’s regulations are “onerous in every element of that business,” with tight restrictions intended to keep the businesses on a close leash with regard to possibility of sales to underage customers and other issues that have raised questions at the state and local level.
He suggested the town should either forgo setting up its own regulations, and follow the state’s rules, or wait before approving local regulations until more is known about any additional regulations the state will come up with.
But the mayor noted that the town already has invested a certain amount in attorney’s fees for McConaughy to draft the proposed ordinance.
Breslin also questioned the practical issue of pot businesses’ ability to pay local and state taxes, since they can’t get bank accounts at federally insured banks because marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
He told the others on the council that he had only just heard that from Riddile, declaring, “I didn’t know that.”
Riddile, in turn, supported Breslin, declaring, “I think any fiscally responsible person would be very wary about allowing a business to come into their town,” under such circumstances.
Breslin stood firm in response to suggestions by Russi and Councilor Bruce Leland that the town wait for a while to see how things progress before passing a ban, noting that a ban can easily be appealed but maintaining that once the shops opened up for business, “we can’t shut them down.”
Councilor Bob Gordon, another proponent of the ban, said that if the shops can’t do business in New Castle, they will shift their focus to Rifle or Glenwood Springs, “and to me, that’s a good thing.”
Breslin agreed, saying, “Let somebody else do it, you know, invent the wheel,” meaning go through the difficulties of finding ways to accommodate the retail marijuana business.
In the end the council voted unanimously to impose the temporary ban on retail sale of marijuana for nine months.
In a related decision, the council has agreed to pass on to the planning and zoning commission the question of whether the town should allow or prohibit the growing of pot within town limits, as well as the manufacture of so-called “infused products,” meaning edible products laced with pot.
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Grace Wesseling is an animal lover, a cheerleader of seven years and another soon-to-be graduate of Bridges High School, class of 2021.