Silt votes to allow pot shops in town

John Colson

SILT — The town’s board of trustees, prodded by one of its advisory commissions, this week reversed its earlier course and voted to allow retail pot shops to do business in certain commercial zones in town.

The trustees have been vacillating on the question of whether to permit retail pot shops to set up in Silt, but at the Sept. 23 board meeting Trustee Sonny Fernandez changed his position from one of uncertain opposition to one of support for the idea, noting that Silt’s electorate had voted in favor of legalization in the Nov. 6, 2012 election. Fernandez’ decision, coupled with a change of heart by Trustee Keith Richel, shifted the position of the board from being evenly split on the question with the mayor’s tie-breaking opposition to the idea, to majority support for allowing the businesses to operate locally.

Trustees Rick Aluise and Bryan Fleming had been in favor of allowing the businesses in town essentially since it first came up.

Colorado voters in 2012 approved Amendment 64 to the state constitution, which legalizes the cultivation, use and possession of marijuana and marijuana-related products for any state resident over 21 years of age. A majority of Silt’s voters were among those who approved Amendment 64.

“I believe we need to have laws governing whatever goes on in our town.”
Dave Moore
Silt mayor

Some trustees had voiced fears about the possibility that, because pot remains illegal under federal law, the feds may one day decide that Silt’s legalization laws were a violation of federal law and prosecute the town’s leaders. But after President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced earlier this year that they would not interfere with valid, voter-approved legalization efforts at the state level, opinions shifted.

And at a meeting on Nov. 6, the town’s planning and zoning commission had voted to advise the town to abandon efforts to prevent pot businesses from moving to Silt. The P&Z forwarded to the trustees two proposed ordinances allowing pot shops in certain zone districts and establishing procedures for licensing and regulating the businesses.

Local fees?

As approved, the ordinances contain no provisions for assessing application fees on hopeful pot sellers, although the state does assess such fees.

Town Planning Director Janet Aluise explained on Wednesday that the trustees will be considering what fees to impose in December, as part of the town’s annual review of all fees charged by he town.

There was no indication at the trustees’ Nov. 12 meeting whether the town might also soon change its policies regarding medical marijuana centers, which currently are not allowed to operate in Silt. The trustees had voted at a previous meeting to re-examine the medical marijuana prohibition next year.

And while the trustees on Tuesday gave their nod to zoning and licensing regulations for retail marijuana shops, they have yet to approve laws permitting other non-retail, pot-related businesses, such as marijuana clubs, cultivation, manufacturing of marijuana-infused products, and testing of marijuana for safety and potency,

Planning Director Aluise said on Wednesday that she has been directed to work on an emergency ordinance enacting a moratorium on the non-retail marijuana businesses, to give the town time to write up a set of ordinances dealing just with those types of business.

Following a lengthy debate and a public hearing on Tuesday night, the trustees passed on first reading, by a vote of 3-2, an ordinance creating new zoning regulations allowing retail marijuana shops to open up in the town’s business/industrial zone, located between I-70 and the Colorado River, as well as in the B-3 business zone along a part of Front Street, but nowhere else in town.

Trustees Jeff LaValla and Fernandez were absent from Tuesday’s meeting, and Mayor Dave Moore, who has vehemently opposed the establishment of marijuana-related business in town, abstained from voting on that first ordinance. Voting in favor of the ordinance were Trustees Rick Aluise, Bryan Fleming, Paul Taylor and Richel.

The trustees also approved, on first reading, an ordinance setting up a system for licensing and regulating marijuana retail businesses that, according to town attorney Michael Sawyer, is similar to the codes regulating the liquor industry.

Among other provisions, the 20-page licensing ordinance requires a setback of 500 feet between pot shops and forbids pot shops from setting up in residential zone districts. It also forbids pot shops to locate within 500 feet of any school (private or public, including day care facilities and preschools) that is not located within a commercial zone district.

The licensing ordinance passed unanimously, 5-0, after the mayor announced that “I believe we need to have laws governing whatever goes on in our town,” and voted in favor of the ordinance.

The regulations allow pots shops to be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. only, and requires that they be owned and operated by individuals of “good moral character,” among numerous other requirements that comply with new state laws regulating the industry.

Second readings of both ordinances are scheduled for the meeting of Nov. 25.

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