Carbondale: ‘Probably not’ to marijuana tourism
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Don’t look for towns in the Roaring Fork Valley that are so-far open to allowing retail recreational marijuana sales within their jurisdictions to start becoming “little Amsterdams” with the passage of Amendment 64.
Elected officials in both Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, during recent discussions about what kind of local regulations to put on the new recreational marijuana industry, have also been consistently clear on one other prospect.
“Marijuana tourism is probably not something we want to see happen here,” Carbondale Trustee Frosty Merriott, one of the more outspoken proponents of medical marijuana in recent years, said during a July 16 discussion of the issue.
“I don’t think that’s what Amendment 64 was meant for at all, and to me that’s certainly not where we want Carbondale to go,” he said in a follow-up interview about the possibility that voter approval of the amendment legalizing limited possession and retail sales of marijuana for recreational purposes could also open the door for marijuana clubs.
Shortly after the passage of Amendment 64 last November, officials in both Glenwood Springs and Carbondale received inquiries about opening marijuana clubs. Both towns imposed moratoriums on even accepting applications for new marijuana businesses until the state and local regulatory process could play out.
Glenwood Springs City Councilor Stephen Bershenyi, during a July 18 meeting, referred to them as “hookah bars,” like those found along the streets of Amsterdam, Netherlands — essentially bars that serve marijuana tokes or treats instead of, or maybe along with, alcohol.
“If you go to Amsterdam, they’re like coffee shops,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Leo McKinney said this week, reiterating his and the other Glenwood council members’ position that that’s not what they want either.
“People kind of get that in their head and start thinking that’s what we’re talking about with the retail side of recreational marijuana,” McKinney said. “My sense is that nobody on this council would be inclined to approve such an establishment.”
Amendment 64 seems to prohibit them, though there are still some gray areas in the law about whether local jurisdictions could allow them.
“The state law prohibits retail marijuana from being consumed on the premises of a retail marijuana store,” said Alison Eastley, assistant town attorney for Carbondale who has been working with the town board to craft a local regulatory scheme for recreational marijuana businesses.
That’s true for both medical marijuana dispensaries and the coming allowance of retail establishments for recreational marijuana purchases.
“Since a club would need licensing, a marijuana club would violate the state law,” Eastley said.
Local jurisdictions do have some discretion. But, the open use of marijuana in public places, which is specifically prohibited in Amendment 64, is already a problem in Carbondale and other places in Colorado.
“The town may choose to fill in some of those gaps about what ‘openly and publicly’ [as the amendment phrases it] means,” Eastley said.
Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, along with other municipalities across the state, are in the process of determining what local rules and regulations to put on the books for recreational marijuana businesses, including retail stores, cultivation, manufacturing and testing facilities.
Some municipalities and counties have already begun the process to “opt out,” by banning such activities within their boundaries, which Amendment 64 provides for.
McKinney said he doesn’t see the local rules being much different from what’s already in place regarding medical marijuana. Those regulations steer retail dispensaries and other establishments to specific zone districts within the city, and spell out how far away from one another and from schools, churches and other public buildings they can be located.
“We already have a retail situation with the dispensaries,” McKinney said. “I just don’t think it’s going to be a lot different than what we already have in place for those businesses.”
Under Amendment 64, existing medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed to seek state licensing to become the first recreational marijuana retail outlets in the state starting in January 2014. New marijuana businesses would not be permitted until later next year.
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