Recreational marijuana ordinance in Crested Butte set for public hearing
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 21 August 2013
How many allowed, where, open ‘til when and where do you grow the product?

When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, the Crested Butte Town Council is apparently ahead of the game.
The council is considering a series of regulations to implement before October to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana in the town. The council appears ready to approve a limited number of retail sales outlets, production operations, and testing facilities. That will be on top of the already approved medical marijuana dispensaries in town.

 

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The council is less inclined to approve grow operations inside town boundaries at this time but hopes the county will allow such operations.
The public will likely have two chances to comment on the marijuana proposals at the town council meetings in September.
“We are on the front of this,” Crested Butte town attorney John Belkin told the council. “Know that we are one of the first. I’ve been looking for other places with regulations and there aren’t many.”
A task force comprised of council members and town staff came up with a series of recommendations that the overall council generally approved of at the August 19 meeting. It suggested that a limit of five retail outlets be allowed; that five production-manufacturing operations that take raw marijuana and convert it to other forms of consumption like edibles and tinctures be okayed; that two testing facilities measuring the THC in product be approved; and that five medical marijuana dispensaries be permitted in town.
The task force suggested all marijuana business be contained to the commercial zone (C-Zone).
“The thought was to leave cultivation aside for the time being and allow these four animals in the C-Zone with conditions,” explained task force member Bob Gillie.
“That would be up to 17 potential marijuana locations in the C-Zone? That would be the whole C-Zone,” said councilperson John Wirsing. “I’d like to make sure someone could still go buy lumber or paint in our commercial district.”
“No one expects 17 spaces to be used for marijuana purposes,” said task force member Shaun Matusewicz. “We have five permits currently allowed for medical marijuana dispensaries and only three operations.”
“What about placing retail shops in other zones like the B-2 or B-3 zones along Sixth Street?” asked Councilperson Jim Schmidt.
“That wasn’t talked about in great depth,” responded Gillie. “We didn’t want it to be in high tourist traffic areas. If people want it, they’ll figure out where to get it.”
“The most disheartening thing for me is the dramatic increase in marijuana use we’ve seen by local teenagers since medical marijuana was approved and allowed in town,” said Wirsing. “No amount of tax revenue increase can offset the message we’re sending to our high school students. The effect on our kids and the usage rate is real and I can’t get behind expanding it that much more. I’d try to do this as limited as possible.”
“It would be good to get public input on the location issue,” said Mayor Aaron Huckstep.
As for the limits on the number of spaces, Schmidt was in favor of letting the free market determine the number of outlets. “We don’t set limits on the number of liquor stores or bars or restaurants,” he said. “I’ve driven through Boulder and seen a number of dispensaries and it doesn’t seem to have an adverse impact. I’d prefer to see the C-Zone remain diverse. If we push them all there, it could dominate the area. If we spread them out, it makes more sense.”
“Having no cap? I respectfully disagree,” said Councilperson Glenn Michel. “It’s a new industry. We have no idea where it will go. I’m fine with the ‘5-5-5 and 2’ limits.”
So, apparently, was the rest of the council.
The council did debate the recommendation of hours of operation for the stores. The task force recommended a 9 a.m. to midnight limit, similar to local liquor stores. “I see that it could be a problem for people living near these shops,” said Michel. “People driving up at midnight to buy marijuana could be loud. Why not pull those hours back?”
“We modeled it after liquor stores. They don’t stay open that late but they could,” Matusewicz said. “People live in places near our liquor stores, too.”
Gillie said the Board of Zoning and Architectural Review (BOZAR) was discussing the issue and planned to have a recommendation to council before the next meeting. He said hours-of-operation element was definitely part of their discussion.
When it came to the growing of marijuana the council wasn’t sure the town was an appropriate place. The task force presented pros and cons of the grow element but no recommendation.
“The state hasn’t quite finished its rulemaking on this issue,” said Gillie. “It might be wise to wait on this one.”
“If the county decides to not allow grow operations, then where will it be grown?” asked Owen. “I’m in favor of letting it happen in town. It’s not our place to tell people what to do with their money. If they can grow it here under our regulations, let them.”
“My concern is that we have a lot on our plate as a council,” said Michel. “How feasible is it to really have a grow operation in town?”
“It’s not the council’s job to tell a business if their idea is feasible or not,” responded Matusewicz.
“There are other things our staff could be doing. There are other places for our resources than to work on this,” Michel said.
“Because something is work is not a reason to not do something,” said Matusewicz. “
“My point is that if we’re going to go through this type of brain damage, let’s do it on something else, like a parking plan,” suggested Michel.
“Maybe wait and see what the county ultimately decides,” said Belkin.
“Perhaps set it aside for three months or so and see where the county and state come down,” added Gillie. “Wait until we’re smarter on the issue.”
“I’m okay with grow operations in town but it is reasonable to see how it shakes out at the county,” said Schmidt.
“The large commercial operations will take place far away from here,” said Matusewicz. “But Crested Butte has opportunity for boutique growers.”
The council asked town manager Todd Crossett to touch base with his county counterpart, Matthew Birnie, and to relay the message that the council would prefer to see grow operations allowed in the unincorporated county. “We could encourage a more cohesive plan with the county and town,” said Huckstep.
On other topics associated with the legal marijuana issue, the council will have Belkin draft a memo explaining any limits they are allowed to put on marketing and advertising. They won’t address the nebulous idea of smoking dens or lounges and the council will keep an eye on asking voters to approve an excise tax on the weed in the future.
The council set an ordinance for public hearing at the September 3 council meeting to give the public an opportunity to weigh in. Chances are they will continue that hearing until the September 17 meeting to give further opportunity for public input.