Glenwood Springs council may put brakes on pot clubs

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — City officials in Glenwood Springs are reacting to recent inquiries from persons interested in possibly opening private marijuana clubs in the city, following voter passage of Amendment 64 last November.

The City Council, at its regular meeting Thursday, will weigh two versions of a temporary moratorium on applications for new recreational marijuana establishments until Oct. 1, unless lifted sooner.

One would impose an emergency ordinance intended “for the immediate preservation of public health, safety and welfare.” Such a move would require the approval of five of the seven council members.

The other version would go through the usual ordinance approval process, which requires a 10-day noticing period.

The passage of Amendment 64 permits persons age 21 and over to possess up to 1 ounce and to grow limited amounts of marijuana for recreational use. The new law also calls for the state, through the Department of Revenue, to establish a system of regulating and taxing marijuana sales similar to alcohol.

A state task force is currently working to come up with those rules. They are required to be in place by July 1, so the state can begin accepting applications by Oct. 1.

In the meantime, local municipalities and counties may determine if they want to permit or prohibit recreational marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions. Local regulations for such businesses must also be in place by Oct. 1, according to the provisions of Amendment 64.

“City staff has received inquiries as to the establishment of a private club for the use of marijuana,” city attorney Jan Shute indicated in a memo to City Council for Thursday’s discussion.

The moratorium would allow the city time to decide whether to prohibit such businesses, or to come up with its owns rules and regulations governing the new industry, she said.

In that case, applications would not be accepted until the new rules are in place.

On Tuesday, the state task force also recommended that marijuana tourism be allowed under the new regulations, which could be a boon especially for tourist destinations.

The provision would allow visitors from out of state to use marijuana in special permitted establishments, or to purchase limited amounts, which would prevent trafficking of large amounts of marijuana across state lines.

The task force is made up of lawmakers, law enforcement authorities and marijuana activists. Its recommendations will still need to be approved by the state Legislature.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, in a Nov. 7, 2012, statement, reminded state and local officials that possession and sale of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

“The Department of Revenue will consult and work with the U.S. Department of Justice to understand the federal government’s approach in light of potential conflicts with federal laws,” the governor stated. “The [state] will take into consideration the federal government’s intention to enforce federal marijuana prohibitions.”

Also on Thursday’s council agenda will be a follow-up discussion and final direction regarding new bus fares for Ride Glenwood to go into effect in April.

Council, at its Feb. 7 meeting, agreed to switch to a $1 per day fare, rather than $1 per ride, while allowing riders age 65 and older and 5 and under to ride for free.

Prepaid bus pass options will also be further discussed, including possible $5-per-week and $20-per-month passes, as well as passes on which values of $5 or more can be electronically stored.

The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Glenwood Springs City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.

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