Aspen City Council will likely consider how to regulate retail pot stores in the coming months after state legislators recently unveiled a long-awaited marijuana regulation bill.
The bill leaves it up to local governments to impose restrictions on how many and where marijuana retail stores are allowed. It also gives those governments the option to institute their own local licensing requirements, or not act on any applications received.
If the bill moves forward, whether the city should restrict retail pot shops in Aspen will likely be brought to City Council in the upcoming months, said Chris Bendon, community development director. Since voters legalized marijuana in November, city staff has advised council to wait and see what regulations the state legislature creates before drafting its own rules.
Under the proposed bill, the “wait and see plan” doesn’t seem like it will work for much longer and the city will have to take action, Bendon said. Town councils in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs have taken the preemptive step of placing moratoriums on marijuana stores.
The proposed bill gives local medical marijuana dispensaries the first opportunity as of Jan. 1, 2014 to apply for a retail shop license for a $500 fee. Current businesses can either choose to remain as a medical marijuana dispensary, open a separate retail store attached to the dispensary or convert entirely to a retail store.
The bill also places a three-month moratorium following the first of the year on retail store applications from individuals who are not currently licensed to sell medical marijuana. The bill also would require new applicants to pay a $5,000 application fee. Half of the revenues from those fees will go back to the local jurisdiction, according to the bill.
The owner of Stash, a medical marijuana dispensary at the Airport Business Center, said that his shop will likely apply for a retail license if the bill passes. The owner asked that his name not be disclosed.
“I think in order to be profitable, you almost have to,” he said.
Stash has seen a drop in business since voters legalized marijuana last November. Many loyal customers have decided not to renew their medical marijuana cards at a cost of $35, and instead wait until retail stores open. The owner has not yet decided whether he will try to retain the dispensary or convert the business entirely into a retail store, he said.
Other rules proposed in the bill include that retailers can’t sell more than a quarter ounce of marijuana to residents from outside of Colorado and that pot shops must be at least 1,000 feet from schools. Retail stores would not be allowed to sell tobacco or alcohol products, and they would not be allowed to sell to people under the age of 21. The bill establishes separate licenses for retail marijuana stores, product manufacturers, growers and product testers. The bill also creates a marijuana enforcement division, which will be responsible for regulating the industry and collecting fees.