People 21 and over in Aspen and Glenwood Springs seeking marijuana without a prescription are on track to be able to buy it at a retail outlet starting Jan. 1.
One cannabis-store operator said he has the requisite permits, and Aspen City Council today is poised to pass a new ordinance that will govern retail marijuana shops — there could be as many as eight in town by next year — much like liquor stores.
Council members discussed the proposed Ordinance 38 on Sept. 16, and assistant city attorney Debbie Quinn wrote in a recent memo that the law’s final language is ready for review after a few minor changes.
Ron Radtke, owner of the Green Essentials medical-marijuana dispensary in Glenwood Springs, said Monday that he had just received the final paperwork from the Colorado Department of Revenue to offer the retail shopping experience to non-patients.
“It will be kind of like going to a liquor store,” he said.
Radtke said the process of procuring a retail license for his store on 10th Street in Glenwood and for a new location at Mill Street and Hyman Avenue in Aspen was arduous.
An applicant must have both an exceptionally clean background and the financial means to post at least a $5,000 bond with the state, money that acts as a pledge to uphold the rules of the retail marijuana industry. Then there is the licensing requirements for the cities of Aspen and Glenwood, Pitkin and Garfield counties, and the state, Radtke said.
“The bottom line is: Take your time and do it correctly,” he said. “You have to have the money to fund what is your responsibility.
“It’s a major commitment.”
According to Quinn’s memo, there were three existing medical marijuana facilities operating within the city limits as of Oct. 1, each with a business license and presumably with a state medical marijuana license.
Since Oct. 1, there have been five additional medical marijuana facilities that have obtained a city business license.
“In any event, there could be as many as eight medical licensees who could apply for a retail license within the city,” Quinn wrote. “These license applications could be either requests for conversion from medical to retail or for co-location, so the number of locations should not be greater than eight.”
City staff checked with Colorado’s marijuana enforcement division to determine which of the five newcomers have completed the state medical marijuana license application. Council is expected to get that number today.
Radtke applauded the cities of Aspen and Glenwood for taking their time organizing the new legal structure.
Aspen attorney Lauren Maytin, however, said the city of Aspen should reconsider a couple of aspects of its budding retail industry. She counts among her clients high-country entrepreneurs looking to start marijuana businesses.
As a board member of the Colorado chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Maytin said she fully supported Amendment 64, the legalization measure state voters approved in 2012.
But she said she disagreed with Quinn’s recommendation to council that it not allow private cannabis clubs. That could lead to tourists ending up in the emergency room because they’re unaccustomed to the potency of edible, marijuana-infused products, Maytin said.
In her memo to council, Quinn wrote that there is “nothing in Amendment 64, the state codes or regulations that legalizes the leasing or use of property for a private or public club for marijuana consumption; there is no provision for licensing such a use.”
Amendment 64 lists which acts involving the consumption of cannabis remain illegal, including using the substance “openly and publicly.”
Maytin said that means anyone smoking marijuana in public in Aspen can be the subject of a $100 first-time fine under the municipal code. That, in turn, means fearful visitors might instead turn to infused edibles — snacks and sweets of which they have no experience that could lead to a trip to the emergency room.
Most tourists in the valley, when it comes to cannabis, use it in “a puff or two,” Maytin said. Edibles are a whole other ball of wax, strong enough to put a naïve visitor in the hospital.
“People recreating here, in a world-class tourist destination, we don’t want them seeing the inside of an emergency room,” she said.
A private cannabis club, however, would allow the casual cannabis consumer a more normalized experienced, Maytin said.
Quinn, though, said in her memo to council that the “conservative interpretation” of Amendment 64 means private or public marijuana clubs, “because they are not specifically authorized,” are not legal.
“Staff recommends that council allow the prohibition of private or public clubs that is included” in the city’s new law remain as drafted, Quinn wrote.
Maytin said she also took issue with the city limiting the number of retail shops to eight. No other industry — liquor stores and restaurants, for instance — is regulated in such a way, she argued.
Eight is an acceptable number for potential retail shops as Aspen transitions into regulating the industry, Quinn’s memo says.
Today’s council meeting begins at 5 p.m. and includes a public comment period.