Retail sales of recreational marijuana are headed for Aspen, after the City Council voted unanimously for two related code amendments Tuesday regulating sale of the drug to people over 21.
As many as eight retail pot shops, operating like liquor stores, could open in the new year under the new regulations. Clubs for smoking marijuana are not allowed under the new rules.
Aspen is the 19th Colorado city to adopt rules regulating retail sales of marijuana, according to the Colorado Municipal League. Seventy-seven cites have prohibited such sales, while 35 have enacted moratoriums, including Basalt and Vail. Carbondale has already passed regulations for retail sales.
Eight business licenses have been issued for retail marijuana shops. No more will be issued for a year, the council agreed — three months longer than the state’s time limit on new licenses.
Assistant City Attorney Deborah Quinn recommended capping the number at eight, for now, because medical marijuana operators in cities where recreational sales have been banned are allowed, by the state, to apply for retail business licenses elsewhere. That could make cities like Aspen a magnet for would-be pot retailers, Quinn argued.
“If we don’t limit during this transition period, we could have a lot of applications,” she said.
The city opted not to permit clubs or hash bars, because state rules don’t yet provide for licensing such uses and Amendment 64, passed by voters statewide last year, legalized personal use and sale of marijuana but is ambiguous on establishments for consumption.
“There is no jurisdiction in the state that’s even contemplating clubs at this time, and we don’t think Aspen ought to be the first cutting edge [city] on that issue,” Quinn said.
Councilman Adam Frisch voiced support for marijuana clubs in a coffee shop-like setting, but the council agreed not to allow clubs for now.
“If it’s crafted for local concerns, I could see us trying to get there [later],” Frisch said.
During public comment, Lauren Maytin, an attorney and National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws board member, argued that not providing anywhere for people to smoke their legally purchased drugs is a problem. She suggested tourists might be kicked out of hotels, ticketed on the street or arrested on federal land for smoking, or might overdose on edible marijuana while trying to avoid smoking.
“I would hate for our tourists to come and get locked out of their hotel room,” she said. “Instead of creating this problem of nowhere to consume, we should address it.”
Maytin also advocated allowing for retail pot shops in the Service/Commercial/Industrial Zone District. The code doesn’t allow for retail shops, but would allow facilities for growing, manufacturing and testing marijuana in the SCI zone. Those facilities, like all SCI businesses, are allowed to use up to 25 percent of floor space for retail sales.
The council voted 4-0 for the pot rules. Councilman Art Daily recused himself from the votes, because his son-in-law is an investor in a retail marijuana business.