CB Council wants time to plan for sale of marijuana
Written by Alissa Johnson
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
Moratorium employed as a “pause button.”
Interim town manager Bob Gillie and town attorney John Belkin advised the Crested Butte Town Council this week to implement a temporary moratorium on the implementation of Amendment 64, the new state law that allows anyone 21 years of age or older to possess an ounce or less of marijuana.
The intention of the moratorium is not to halt the sale of retail marijuana and marijuana-infused products, but instead to buy the town some time to develop local regulations. The council agreed to the moratorium, as long as it came with a deadline.
Gillie explained, “We’re recommending that we delay until we get more recommendations from the state so we have a basis to talk about regulations from a more informed position.”
He also recommended putting a moratorium on any additional medical marijuana licenses. The state of Colorado may allow medical marijuana operations to have first dibs at retail sale permits.
“People may try to game the system by coming in and getting the last two medical marijuana licenses, to get on a faster track for retail marijuana,” Gillie said.
Mayor Aaron Huckstep clarified, “There is a presumption underlying this that if they obtain one of the two outstanding permits they would be expedited through the state’s process because they hold medical marijuana permits and could choose to turn to retail.”
“I don’t have a problem with that,” said Councilmember Jim Schmidt, pointing out that the cost of starting a medical marijuana operation is not small. “It’s not a cheap gamesmanship if someone wants to do it. I guess I’m having a little problem seeing what’s the big problem if somebody wants to game it.”
Councilmember Shaun Matusewicz added that as the state continues to develop its regulations, it looks like medical marijuana operations will have less of a leg up.
“In the most current recommendation the state has made, which we considered at our last meeting, there would be a one-year grace period where medical could convert into retail. Now they’re leaning more toward 90 days, so it’s considerably less than one year and potential gaming of the system is substantially lessened.”
“Other than possible gaming, is there any other need for a moratorium?” asked Huckstep.
Gillie explained that someone could potentially try to establish an operation anywhere in town before local regulations and zoning were figured out. That could force the issue of where such retail operations would be allowed.
Belkin added, “The concept of the moratorium is a pause button. The point of the moratorium is to frankly prevent someone from starting one of these businesses and having no regulations to even deal with them.”
Matusewicz worried that having a moratorium would delay the development of regulations. “By having a moratorium, we’re allowing ourselves to kick the can down the road. You saw Crested Butte lead on medical marijuana and we should do the same here,” he said.
But other council members, including Roland Mason, argued that the council could use that time to develop the new regulations.
“We can get everything ready to roll out the carpet under the moratorium and not have issues come up. I’d rather see the whole picture once the state sets everything up and have something close to ready and then, boom, let’s roll it out,” he said, adding that the council had followed a similar process for medical marijuana.
Eventually, the council directed staff to draft an ordinance that places a moratorium on retail and new medical marijuana outlets, with the understanding that medical marijuana can be struck from the ordinance when it is formally approved.
The council also requested that the moratorium include a 60-day sunset period that will require local regulations to be in place within 60 days of state regulations being finalized.
Last but not least, the council also established a task force with Councilmen David Owen and Matusewicz working to start developing recommendations for issues like taxation, zoning and ways to involve the public in the discussion.