New Castle formally OKs pot moratorium

John Colson
Post Independent Staff

NEW CASTLE — The town council here has given its formal approval to a moratorium on new businesses hoping to grow, cook with or test marijuana products for one year, although the council members agreed to take a new look at the issue in May 2014, according to Town Manager Tom Baker.

The town already has in place permanent bans on medical marijuana outlets, as well as on retail or recreational marijuana shops (nonmedical in nature), although the council signaled it will review the ban on retail shops in May 2014, at the same time as the discussion on the moratorium on the other marijuana-related businesses, Baker said.

The latest pot ordinance, passed on first reading on Aug. 20, is the town’s latest move in dealing with Amendment 64, passed by the state’s voters in last year’s general election, 12 years after the state electorate passed Amendment 20 legalizing the cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The new state laws permit anyone over 21 to grow, consume or make edible products out of pot, without the need for a prescription from a doctor, which is required under Amendment 20 and the laws generated by the vote.

The New Castle moratorium will run from the date the ordinance takes effect until Aug. 1, 2014.

“It was made very clear at the meeting that, if they don’t act on the moratorium, one way or another, state law will apply” as of Aug. 1, 2014, Baker stressed. That would mean that, lacking local regulations to govern the cultivation, cooking and testing of pot, those interested in starting such businesses in New Castle could do so by obtaining a state permit.

The ban on retail shops, however, would remain in place after the Aug. 1 date, Baker said.

The vote on the moratorium at the Aug. 20 meeting was 5-1. Councilor Bob Gordon, who has favored keeping the pot shops out of town, was absent from the meeting.

The council members made their decision in spite of the fact that a majority of New Castle voters approved Amendment 64 in last year’s election.

Based on electoral results from the New Castle area — voting precincts 13, 14 and 15 — the amendment won approval by a vote of 1,575-1,181 for a total of 2,756 votes cast on the amendment, or a margin of approximately 25 percent, according to county records.

Garfield County Clerk and Recorder Jean Alberico told the Post Independent in late June that precinct 13 is split between New Castle itself and the Apple Tree mobile home park, and that precincts 14 and 15 contain most of the actual town voters.

If calculated by results from just those two precincts, which produced a total of 2,230 votes on Amendment 64, it was approved by New Castle voters by a tally of 1,255-975, or a margin of approximately 22 percent.

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