Moffat County Commission passes ban on retail pot establishments

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— The Moffat County Commission on Tuesday passed an ordinance prohibiting the establishment of retail marijuana operations in unincorporated areas of the county.

The ordinance was approved by a 2-0 vote and takes effect immediately. Commissioner John Kinkaid was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

It was the second marijuana-related ordinance to pass in as many weeks. Last week, the commission unanimously passed Ordinance 2013-01 prohibiting the establishment of marijuana clubs.

Not everyone in attendance for Tuesday’s hearing was in agreement. Craig resident Tracy Winder voiced her concerns about the ordinance that bans retail marijuana businesses, questioning commissioners about why the ban is permanent. By contrast, the ordinance that prohibits private marijuana clubs expires Dec. 31.

Winder asked the commissioners why they decided not to enact a similar timeline.

“I believe I have answered that question thoroughly,” Commissioner Chuck Grobe said. “I believe it will cost the county more money to regulate marijuana businesses through more police, Sheriff’s Office deputies and people to certify marijuana is safe for public consumption than the income it will generate.

“If the state doesn’t act by its Oct. 1 deadline, all of those things will fall to the county to figure out.”

Though Amendment 64 failed to pass in Moffat County last November, the margin was close, Winder said. She asked under what circumstances Tuesday’s ordinance could be repealed.

“We’re going to let the state come out with rules and regulations and revisit it if the people want us to,” Commissioner Tom Mathers said. “Once there’s rules and regulations in place at the state, I think we realistically need to sit down and look at it because it was such a close vote in Moffat County and we need to work for both sides.”

The state also is trying to sort its way through the implications of Amendment 64, which legalizes the possession and use of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The state has until later this year to approve a regulatory framework for the establishment of marijuana retail businesses. Regardless of what the state decides, Amendment 64 allows cities and counties to ban marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions, although they can’t ban the private use and consumption of pot by adults.

The U.S. Department of Justice also is expected to weigh in on Amendment 64 and how the federal government might respond to the legalization of marijuana, which still is classified as an illegal drug at the federal level.

On Feb. 28, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force delivered its recommendations to the state Legislature. Grobe criticized those recommendations Tuesday, saying the task force recommended little in the way of regulating marijuana.

By its own admission, Grobe said the state doesn’t think it will have marijuana rules and regulations in place until sometime in 2014, long after the Oct. 1 deadline stipulated in Amendment 64.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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