Silt holds off on marijuana regulations |

Silt holds off on marijuana regulations

SILT — The town’s Board Of Trustees has delayed for about a month a decision about whether to ban retail marijuana shops and other facilities inside the town limits.

But at a meeting on Monday it appeared that a majority of the trustees were leaning in favor either of an outright ban or a moratorium to see how the issue plays out in other towns.

Across Colorado, towns and cities are trying to determine how best to deal with the ramifications of Amendment 64, approved in November 2012, which makes it legal in Colorado for those 21 and older to grow, smoke and possess marijuana, as well as authorizing the creation of a retail industry for cultivation, processing into edibles and other products, and conduct quality tests on the marijuana.

Towns have until Oct. 1 to set up their own ordinances governing the newly legalized marijuana industry, as that is the date when existing medical marijuana outlets can apply to convert their businesses to retail stores under Amendment 64. Because Silt already banned medical marijuana businesses from town, that deadline does not really apply to the town, said town attorney Mike Sawyer.

The other deadline is Jan. 1, 2014, when non-medical-marijuana shops can apply for state and local licenses. If the town has no ordinances in place, Sawyer said, it may find itself being governed by state laws, which probably would result in pot shops in Silt.

Silt Mayor Dave Moore read several letters from local citizens into the record of the trustee meeting, all but one of which urged the trustees to ban the sale, manufacture and testing facilities from operating in Silt.

“I don’t care if the non-pot-smokers were outvoted by the pot smokers,” declared one female letter writer, as read by Moore. “They can go just about anywhere in the state to get their fix.”

Only one letter writer, at least among the packet Moore read from, felt the trustees should allow the businesses to operate in town.

“The answer to your budget problems is right in front of you,” wrote local resident Dylan Lewis, agreeing with earlier comments by Trustee Bryan Fleming that the town could dig itself out of its ongoing financial difficulties by permitting the sale of pot, and taxing it.

Currently, the town is considering whether to ask local voters for permission to raise sales taxes as a way of providing more revenue to the town’s coffers.

But the mayor, in an apparent rebuttal to Lewis’ position, noted that Amendment 64 has provisions allowing towns to ban any commercial marijuana businesses.

Saying that the fact that Amendment 64 was approved by Silt voters by a margin of 55 percent in favor to 45 percent against, the mayor declared, “It’s not a mandate.”

If the town opts for marijuana sales tax revenues as a way to solve its financial problems, he said, “We’re telling our citizens that we care more about a quick fix than protecting the health and welfare of the citizens,” implying that passing a law allowing the sale and manufacture of marijuana products would be harmful to the citizenry.

At one point in the meeting, he asked town staffers pointedly, “We have the right to deny marijuana businesses in town?”

The answer was affirmative.

Trustee Rick Aluise, questioning town attorney Mike Sawyer, asked whether Silt could enact laws that are “more strict” regarding the state law’s allowance for individuals to grow up to six plants at home. Sawyer replied that town ordinances cannot trump state law in this area.

The fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law came up at several points during the meeting, and at one point the trustees debated whether they might be liable to federal prosecution if they pass a law permitting pot shops to do business in town.

Sawyer told the trustees that the town would need to update its codes to align with the new state laws governing cultivation, possession and use by individuals at their homes, even if a ban is enacted for Silt. He said it is not likely that federal authorities would come after the trustees or the town staff over laws enabling local marijuana shops.

He said the town, if it approved an ordinance allowing pot shops in town, would not be initiating any illegal activity, but would simply be enacting a law in keeping with existing state law.

The trustees agreed that the matter requires further discussion and directed town clerk Sheila McIntyre to schedule another work session on Aug. 19 to continue the debate.

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