The Dillon Town Council this week reignited the debate about whether to allow retail marijuana establishments in town.
In September, the council unanimously extended its moratorium against retail marijuana establishments until Oct. 1, 2014. By taking that action, town officials secured their power as the local licensing authority for future marijuana enterprises, despite missing the state’s Oct. 1, 2013, regulatory deadline.
Although town council unanimously passed the moratorium extension in September, there appeared to be a shift in opinion following the November election. Dillon Mayor Ron Holland was particularly vocal in his support of the moratorium extension because he wanted to see how voters around the state and in neighboring municipalities responded to a series of marijuana tax initiatives.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office, every local, county and state marijuana tax question passed in November.
“I was against the medical marijuana movement and I voted against a retail component the last time around, but more because I wanted to see what the state and our neighbors were planning to do,” Holland said. “I’m interested in looking into this (retail marijuana) further, but I don’t want to see them turn into Starbucks and have them on every corner.”
The conversation then shifted to which retail marijuana operations allowed under Amendment 64 council members wanted to permit in town. In addition to retail marijuana stores, Amendment 64 allows for the establishment of cultivation, testing and product manufacturing facilities.
Several council members voiced their support for allowing only retail marijuana establishments in town. Terry King was the only council member to voice her opposition to all forms of retail marijuana businesses. Councilmember Tim Westerberg was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Louis Skowyra was the only council member who voiced support for all four types of businesses, saying he didn’t want to be restrictive of potential business owners.
“I want to see us pursue something with the intent of Amendment 64, which generically speaking was to regulate marijuana like alcohol,” Skowyra said. “That’s what I want to do here in town.”
But the clock is ticking, said town manger Joe Wray. If town council decides to pursue regulations for retail marijuana businesses, it would not only have to pass those regulations before the moratorium sunsets in October 2014, but also decide how it intends to tax retail marijuana sales.
Should Dillon officials elect to pursue a 5 percent excise tax — as was passed in November by Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne — the town would require voter approval in accordance with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
The next opportunity to present a tax initiative to local voters is during the April 1, 2014, municipal election. The deadline to submit a ballot question to the county is the end of January, which Wray said shouldn’t be a problem despite the holidays being in full swing.
“It’s going to be fairly easy because we have multiple samples to work with from other municipalities that passed excise tax questions successfully in November,” Wray said. “We’ll model our 5 percent excise tax ballot question after the other municipalities in the county.”