Breckenridge town council hesitant to opt in to marijuana law change
When Colorado lawmakers passed House Bill 19-1230 and 19-1234, allowing for marijuana hospitality businesses and marijuana delivery in the state, local municipalities were given options. As the statute applies to the town of Breckenridge, the town can opt in to all of the rules, parts of the rules or can opt out completely. However if the town opts out, Breckenridge residents could raise a petition to vote on the issue via signatures from 15% of residents (approximately 675 people).
House Bill 19-1230 allows for two types of licensed establishments where marijuana can be consumed by patrons. The first type is essentially “BYOB” for marijuana, where consumption is allowed onsite but there are not onsite sales. The second type acts more like a liquor license, where marijuana can be bought and consumed onsite. House Bill 19-1234 allows for the sale and delivery of marijuana to private residences by a dispensary, where the same rules of buying the marijuana onsite would apply.
At a work session on Tuesday, November 26, Breckenridge town council members discussed the possibility of an ordinance that would allow for parts of these statutes to be allowed in the town. Town manager Rick Holman first said that he did not believe the town would support marijuana delivery.
Breckenridge Assistant Chief of Police, Deric Gress, said his concerns over the potential rules were safety-based. He said he was concerned that if police had to go to one of these establishments to investigate a crime, they would be exposed to secondhand smoke. He added he was also concerned about compliance in checking IDs and increased impaired driving. Council member Wendy Wolfe also voiced concerns about secondhand smoke.
“We finally got to the point where you don’t smoke nicotine products outside a restaurant but we could be exempting this?” Wolfe said.
Wolfe expressed the need for ventilation policies. Mayor Eric Mamula said he would support an ordinance that allowed a stricter version of these rules.
“We could approve something with some stricter guidelines to fashion it the way we want it,” Mamula said. “I think we could narrowly scope this thing so we can allow it in a sliver of town. We can fashion something that is not necessarily to our liking but is more to our liking than having these things scattered through town.”
Mamula also said that there should be separate spaces for smoking and nonsmoking to accommodate those coming into establishments who do not wish to be exposed to the smoke.
Council member Gary Gallagher voiced his concerns about these laws, stating that he did not want to opt in the statutes either in full or in part.
“My biggest concern is today you don’t really have the ability to test whether they are impaired. I don’t want to encourage people to get into a situation where…you’re going to get really high and get into your car,” Gallagher said. “I hate to sound old school but I really feel uncomfortable doing anything.”
Gallagher noted that while the question may end up on voter’s ballots, he doesn’t think the community will pass a law allowing the hospitality rooms. He was also concerned about whether or not impaired drivers can be traced back to a budtender as they can to a bartender.
After council discussed the legal limit for marijuana while driving, which is five nanograms, they discussed a requirement for a shuttle service or other method of not allowing driving after visiting these establishments.
“What’s computing in my mind is anyone who goes to these establishments can’t drive,” council member Erin Gigliello said.
Council unanimously agreed that they did not want to pass an ordinance for marijuana delivery.
“I would like to look into an attached hospitality, I would like to think of some way to require a shuttle,” council member Jeffrey Bergeron said.
Bergeron added that he did not support party buses that used marijuana, which was also brought up as he believes there are too many variables. Gigliello agreed that she is interested in looking into adjoining establishments, or separate rooms at a dispensary where you can consume marijuana. However, she noted that she would like more information on what has been done in other municipalities before making a decision.
“I’ll stay for the moment open-minded on doing a hospitality adjoining but if we can’t get the legislation such that we won’t have unintended consequences I’m with Gary,” Wolfe said.
Council member Kelly Owens said she would support on-premise consumption.
“I’d love to see a shuttle or Uber service partnership to be required,” Owens said.
Owens also advocated for a requirement of a ventilation system to protect police officers. Council members all agreed that they preferred the liquor license type of marijuana consumption license rather than patrons bringing their own marijuana to an establishment.
“If there’s a way to bring a level of responsibility to the budtender that would be even more favorable,” council member Dick Carleton said.
While the house bills do not allow alcohol or nicotine to be sold or consumed at an establishment where people can buy and consume marijuana, council was supportive of food being sold at these establishments.
The issue will be brought up at the next town council meeting, Dec. 10, with the additional information requested by council.
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