Lawmakers in Denver approved a historic and hard-won package of bills May 8 implementing a legal framework for the recreational consumption and sale of marijuana, and they’re giving medical cannabis retailers a head start to the gate of the budding industry.
In Breckenridge, the owners of at least one dispensary plan to take advantage of it.
“Being in a resort town, there is a huge client base that we don’t currently have access to,” said Caitlin McGuire, of the Breckenridge Cannabis Club. “We’re definitely excited and interested to see how, moving forward with the recreational licenses, how that will affect us as a business. We do plan on applying for one.”
Other retailers have also expressed interest in making the transition to recreational sales, but there are still a number of questions to be answered.
For Charlie Williams, owner of Alpenglow Botanicals in Breckenridge, the biggest one is when and where he can establish a grow operation for recreational products. He says his current harvest isn’t enough to support recreational sales.
“If they’ll let me produce in conjunction with bringing up sales, then lovely,” Williams said. “If not, then all they’ve done is benefit the big guys out of Denver.”
Legislation passed last week is the first of its kind in the country. In addition to permitting the sale of pot and paraphernalia in licensed stores, the laws give current medical-marijuana dispensary owners nine months of lead time to apply for permits to begin selling products for recreational use. Only Colorado residents are allowed to own or invest in stores.
Colorado voters made it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess, consume and purchase up to an ounce of marijuana by approving Amendment 64 to the state Constitution in November. The measure charged lawmakers across the state with creating a regulatory framework for the sale and taxation of the drug, requiring that laws be enacted during the 2013 legislative session, which ended last week.
State legislators responded with a package of statutes that will require that marijuana be sold in child-resistant packaging, allow voters to decide whether to impose a 15 percent excise tax and an additional 10 percent sales tax on the drug in the next election and implement a high-driving limit.
Colorado residents will be allowed to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana without a medical card. Out-of-state residents will be able to buy only a quarter of an ounce at a time. The new laws ban smoking in bars and coffee shops and impose a serving-size limit on edible products.
All of the bills are awaiting Gov. John Hickenlooper’s approval. He has indicated he will sign them.
Local governments have the option to ban marijuana use within their jurisdiction or to further regulate it within the state’s guidelines, but in Summit County most elected officials have yet to make any final decisions. Legalization comes on the heels, for most local towns and the county, of several years of debate over rules for the medical marijuana industry.
Members of the Breckenridge Town Council began discussing the issue last week. While nothing formal is in place, officials say regulations will likely follow the same pattern that exists for dispensaries.
“We spent so much time talking about medical marijuana,” Breckenridge Councilman Mike Dudick said. “With respect to the locations of stores, we want to maintain the same restrictions that are currently in place for medical dispensaries, which means nothing new in the core of downtown and away from schools.”
Those existing regulations have pushed most dispensaries into Breckenridge’s business district on Airport Road.
Officials in Frisco and Dillon say neither town has made any decisions regarding recreational marijuana since state lawmakers approved the package of bills last week.