HomeNews County makes plans to just say no to marijuana
County makes plans to just say no to marijuana
Written by Aimee Brown
Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Commissioners to opt out of 64
The Gunnison County Board of Commissioners is making plans to prohibit the commercial cultivation, processing and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes in unincorporated Gunnison County.
The legalization of the use of recreational marijuana in Colorado was set in motion last fall when voters passed Amendment 64. That allowed for the use of marijuana by adults 21 and over and for the commercial cultivation, manufacture and sale of the drug. The state legislature has since fleshed out specific regulations governing the legalization of marijuana. While Washington State passed a similar piece of legislation, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level. This discrepancy is causing a headache for many officials and regulating agencies. Within Amendment 64 there is a section that states local government has the authority within its jurisdiction to ban any, or all, commercial marijuana operations. However, in order for a local governing body to make that decision it must formally “opt out” by October 1 of this year, explained Gunnison County attorney David Baumgarten. Opting out must take the form of an ordinance with two public readings and subsequent comment periods. “The instruction given to me by the county commissioners was to begin drafting an ordinance forbidding commercial marijuana operations in unincorporated Gunnison County,” said Baumgarten. “Such a decision would have no impact on an individual’s right to grow or possess marijuana for personal use.” In Gunnison County Amendment 64 passed with widespread support. According to the elections office there were 5,811 votes in favor of the legislation and 2,727 votes against. Yet, within the county and the municipalities of Gunnison and Mt. Crested Butte the governing boards have decided against allowing commercial sales and cultivation of marijuana within their boundaries. The Board of Commissioners cited these decisions as they discussed a county ban. “Until the federal government makes it legal, I will be opting out,” said Commissioner Phil Chamberland. In addition, Commissioner Jonathan Houck said he would be hesitant to allow commercial industry while marijuana remained federally illegal. “We rely a lot on federal funding for many projects within the county, and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that,” said Houck. The county has never before created an ordinance—a document that is in some ways similar to a resolution, just more formal. The process will likely take a minimum of six weeks, and will allow for public input. “Let’s start preparing documents and agendas for an opt-out decision sooner rather than later,” Commissioner Paula Swenson told Baumgarten during a county work session this week. “We know that it will take several community meetings and lots of planning.”